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B3 - Replacing mechanisms of selective attention by transcranial direct current stimulation

Walter Paulus, Jens Frahm, and Stefan Treue

Long lasting cortical excitability changes in the human brain can be induced by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) non-invasively and painlessly, excitatory after anodal and inhibitory after cathodal stimulation (Nitsche and Paulus 2000). In functional studies it was shown that the tDCS-induced changes of general network activity can modify performance in cognitive tasks, e.g. perception, learning, and memory consolidation (Nitsche et al. 2003; Antal et al. 2004, Kincses et al. 2004). The direction of the effect seems to depend on an interaction of task characteristics, time point of stimulation relative to performance, and stimulation polarity. It may be further manipulated by pharmacological intervention (Liebetanz et al. 2002; Nitsche et al. 2003c). tDCS is supposed to modify cortical background activity and thus may have a focusing effect on ongoing information processing (Antal et al. 2004). The facilitatory anodal and inhibitory cathodal effects have been demonstrated in firing behaviour of single cortical cells in the cat visual cortex (Creutzfeld et al. 1962) and resembles alterations which are seen in the monkey visual cortex when attention is directed towards or withdrawn from a stimulus (Treue 2001).

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