Randomized, crossover, sham-controlled, double-blind study of transcranial direct current stimulation of left DLPFC on executive functions .Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2018; 36(6):755-766.RN
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique commonly used to modulate cognitive functions; so-called "anodal" stimulation is considered to increase cortical excitability while "cathodal" stimulation is presumed to have the opposite result. Yet, a growing number of recent studies question the robustness of this polarity-dependent effect, namely because of the important inter-individual variability with regards to tDCS modulatory effects. A plausible reason for this heterogenous response may lay in task impurity issues in the evaluation of cognitive functions.
To address the question of task impurity the NIH-Examiner, a neuropsychological test battery that uses latent variables, which assess the common variance across multiple measures of a given concept, was administered to 24 healthy individuals following tDCS. This battery contains 11 tasks and provides latent variables for general executive functioning, fluency, cognitive control and working memory.
Anodal, cathodal, and sham stimulation (20 minutes, 1.5 mA) was administered over left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right supra-orbital area in a randomized, crossover, sham-controlled, double blind protocol.
Factorial scores and task performance indices of executive function were not modulated by tDCS.
Offline tDCS has limited impact on executive functions at both the task and factorial levels. This suggests that reducing task impurity does not increase the effectiveness of tDCS in modulating cognitive functions.