Cathodal electrical stimulation of frontoparietal cortex disrupts statistical learning of visual configural information.
Cortex. 2018 Feb;99:187-199
Authors: Nydam AS, Sewell DK, Dux PE
Attentional performance is facilitated by exploiting regularities and redundancies in the environment by way of incidental statistical learning. For example, during visual search, response times to a target are reduced by repeating distractor configurations-a phenomenon known as contextual cueing (Chun & Jiang, 1998). A range of neuroscientific methods have provided evidence that incidental statistical learning relies on subcortical neural structures associated with long-term memory, such as the hippocampus. Functional neuroimaging studies have also implicated the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) in contextual cueing. However, the extent to which these cortical regions are causally involved in statistical learning remains unclear. Here, we delivered anodal, cathodal, or sham transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the left PFC and left PPC online while participants performed a contextual cueing task. Cathodal stimulation of both PFC and PPC disrupted the early cuing effect, relative to sham and anodal stimulation. These findings causally implicate frontoparietal regions in incidental statistical learning that acts on visual configural information. We speculate that contextual cueing may rely on the availability of cognitive control resources in frontal and parietal regions.
PMID: 29248858 [PubMed – in process]