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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2021) 33 (9): 1657–1678.
Published: 01 August 2021
AbstractView article PDF
Prior research has demonstrated that the frontal lobes play a critical role in the top–down control of behavior, and damage to the frontal cortex impairs performance on tasks that require executive control [Burgess, P. W., & Stuss, D. T. Fifty years of prefrontal cortex research: Impact on assessment. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society , 23 , 755–767, 2017; Stuss, D. T., & Levine, B. Adult clinical neuropsychology: Lessons from studies of the frontal lobes. Annual Review of Psychology , 53 , 401–433, 2002]. Across executive functioning tasks, performance deficits are often quantified as the number of false alarms per total number of nontarget trials. However, most studies of frontal lobe function focus on individual task performance and do not discuss commonalities of errors committed across different tasks. Here, we describe a neurocognitive account that explores the link between deficient frontal lobe function and increased false alarms across an array of experimental tasks from a variety of task domains. We review evidence for heightened false alarms following frontal deficits in episodic long-term memory tests, working memory tasks (e.g., n -back), attentional tasks (e.g., continuous performance tasks), interference control tasks (e.g., recent probes), and inhibitory control tasks (e.g., go/no-go). We examine this relationship via neuroimaging studies, lesion studies, and across age groups and pathologies that impact the pFC, and we propose 11 issues in cognitive processing that can result in false alarms. In our review, some overlapping neural regions were implicated in the regulation of false alarms. Ultimately, however, we find evidence for the fractionation and localization of certain frontal processes related to the commission of specific types of false alarms. We outline avenues for additional research that will enable further delineation of the fractionation of the frontal lobes' regulation of false alarms.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2017) 29 (9): 1498–1508.
Published: 01 September 2017
AbstractView article PDF
A great deal of interest surrounds the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to augment cognitive training. However, effects are inconsistent across studies, and meta-analytic evidence is mixed, especially for healthy, young adults. One major source of this inconsistency is individual differences among the participants, but these differences are rarely examined in the context of combined training/stimulation studies. In addition, it is unclear how long the effects of stimulation last, even in successful interventions. Some studies make use of follow-up assessments, but very few have measured performance more than a few months after an intervention. Here, we utilized data from a previous study of tDCS and cognitive training [Au, J., Katz, B., Buschkuehl, M., Bunarjo, K., Senger, T., Zabel, C., et al. Enhancing working memory training with transcranial direct current stimulation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28, 1419–1432, 2016] in which participants trained on a working memory task over 7 days while receiving active or sham tDCS. A new, longer-term follow-up to assess later performance was conducted, and additional participants were added so that the sham condition was better powered. We assessed baseline cognitive ability, gender, training site, and motivation level and found significant interactions between both baseline ability and motivation with condition (active or sham) in models predicting training gain. In addition, the improvements in the active condition versus sham condition appear to be stable even as long as a year after the original intervention.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2016) 28 (9): 1419–1432.
Published: 01 September 2016
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AbstractView article PDF
Working memory (WM) is a fundamental cognitive ability that supports complex thought but is limited in capacity. Thus, WM training interventions have become very popular as a means of potentially improving WM-related skills. Another promising intervention that has gained increasing traction in recent years is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a noninvasive form of brain stimulation that can modulate cortical excitability and temporarily increase brain plasticity. As such, it has the potential to boost learning and enhance performance on cognitive tasks. This study assessed the efficacy of tDCS to supplement WM training. Sixty-two participants were randomized to receive either right prefrontal, left prefrontal, or sham stimulation with concurrent visuospatial WM training over the course of seven training sessions. Results showed that tDCS enhanced training performance, which was strikingly preserved several months after training completion. Furthermore, we observed stronger effects when tDCS was spaced over a weekend break relative to consecutive daily training, and we also demonstrated selective transfer in the right prefrontal group to nontrained tasks of visual and spatial WM. These findings shed light on how tDCS may be leveraged as a tool to enhance performance on WM-intensive learning tasks.