No Interaction between tDCS Current Strength and Baseline Performance: A Conceptual Replication

Gemma Learmonth, Francesca Felisatti, Numaya Siriwardena, Matthew Checketts, Christopher S.Y. Benwell, Gesine Märker, Gregor Thut, Monika Harvey

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Abstract

Several recent studies have reported non-linear effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which has been attributed to an interaction between the stimulation parameters (e.g., current strength, duration) and the neural state of the cortex being stimulated (e.g., indexed by baseline performance ability, age) (see Fertonani and Miniussi, 2016). We have recently described one such non-linear interaction between current strength and baseline performance on a visuospatial attention (landmark) task (Benwell et al., 2015). In this previous study, we induced a small overall rightward shift of spatial attention across 38 participants using bi-hemispheric tDCS applied for 20 min (concurrent left posterior parietal (P5) anode and right posterior parietal (P6) cathode) relative to a sham protocol. Importantly, this shift in bias was driven by a state-dependent interaction between current intensity and the discrimination sensitivity of the participant at baseline (pre-stimulation) for the landmark task. Individuals with high discrimination sensitivity (HDS) shifted rightward in response to low- (1 mA) but not high-intensity (2 mA) tDCS, whereas individuals with low discrimination sensitivity (LDS) shifted rightward with high- but not low-intensity stimulation. However, in Benwell et al. (2015) current strength was applied as a between-groups factor, where half of the participants received 1 mA and half received 2 mA tDCS, thus we were unable to compare high and low-intensity tDCS directly within each individual. Here we aimed to replicate these findings using a within-group design. Thirty young adults received 15 min of 1 and 2 mA tDCS, and a sham protocol, each on different days, to test the concept of an interaction between baseline performance and current strength. We found no overall rightward shift of spatial attention with either current strength, and no interaction between performance and current strength. These results provide further evidence of low replicability of non-invasive brain stimulation protocols, and the need for further attempts to replicate the key experimental findings within this field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number664
Pages (from-to)664
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Volume11
Issue numberDEC
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Bayesian analysis
  • Plasticity
  • Pseudoneglect
  • Replication
  • Spatial attention
  • TDCS

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    Learmonth, G., Felisatti, F., Siriwardena, N., Checketts, M., Benwell, C. S. Y., Märker, G., Thut, G., & Harvey, M. (2017). No Interaction between tDCS Current Strength and Baseline Performance: A Conceptual Replication. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 11(DEC), 664. [664]. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00664