Artificially altering neural activity in the DLPFC can influence decision making.

Artificially altering neural activity in the DLPFC can influence decision making.

A relatively new neurological experimental technique that can alter (inhibit or exhibit) the polarization of a target neuronal assembly has grown in popularity in recent years. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) works by passing a small electrical current through the target area to interfere with the natural ambient electrical current that is produced by the brain. tDCS can be used in two main forms; anodal (a-tDCS) which can temporarily increases the activity of a selected region and cathodal (c-tDCS) which decreases the activity of the selected region.


In past research tDCS has been used to great effect in the investigation of Parkinson’s disease, our sense of control/agency (SoA), memory, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, pain and numerous other subjects. One recent study has applied tDCS to investigate decision making.


Since decision making is crucial to everyday life a considerable amount of research has been conducted into the neural networks that are involved during decision making processing. One of the areas that has often been associated with risky decision making in the literature is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), an area that is also linked to executive functions.


An interesting piece of recent research has applied tDCS to the DLPFC in a decision making paradigm to investigate the association between activity in the DLPFC with decision making. The research conducted on 60 volunteers applied either anodal (atDCS) or cathodal (c-tDCS) to the DLPFC. The researchers found that participants tended to choose more risky options where they could gain and safer options where they might lose after right anodal/left cathodal tDCS. These results support the evidence that DLPFC activity is important for risky decision making.

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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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