Prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation facilitates affective flexibility.Neuropsychologia. 2016 06; 86:13-8.N
Performance on paradigms involving switching between emotional and non-emotional task-sets (affective flexibility) predicts emotion regulation abilities and is impaired in patients with different emotional disorders. A better understanding of how neurostimulation techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) influence affective switching may provide support for the improvement of rehabilitation programs. In the current study healthy volunteers received anodal tDCS over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the left DLPFC or sham stimulation while performing an affective-switching task. Participants had to repeat or switch between facial judgments of emotional expressions (emotional task-set) or gender (non-emotional task-set). Right tDCS resulted in faster responses in the gender task only when it followed a judgment of emotion. These effects were not observed following left tDCS. Further, switching away from emotion was easier for the right compared to left tDCS group (reduced switch costs for gender), while switching away from gender toward emotion was easier for the left compared to the right group (reduced switch-costs for emotion). In sum, tDCS over the DLPFC may modulate affective flexibility and right stimulation may be particularly helpful to facilitate disengagement from emotional task-sets. The usefulness of tDCS-trained affective switching may be further investigated on larger therapeutic protocols targeting emotional disorders.