Effect of tDCS Over the Right Inferior Parietal Lobule on Mind-Wandering Propensity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mind-wandering is associated with switching our attention to internally directed thoughts and is by definition an intrinsic, self-generated cognitive function. Interestingly, previous research showed that it may be possible to modulate its propensity externally, with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) targeting different regions in the default mode and executive control networks (ECNs). However, these studies used highly heterogeneous montages (targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the right inferior parietal lobule (IPL), or both concurrently), often showed contradicting results, and in many cases failed to replicate. Our study aimed to establish whether tDCS of the default mode network (DMN), via targeting the right IPL alone, could modulate mind-wandering propensity using a within-subjects double-blind, counterbalanced design. Participants completed sustained attention to response task (SART) interspersed with thought-probes to capture their subjective reports of mind-wandering before and after receiving anodal, cathodal, or sham tDCS over the right IPL (with the reference over the left cheek). We found evidence for the lack of an effect of stimulation on subjective reports of mind-wandering (JZS-BF01 = 5.19), as well as on performance on the SART task (errors (JZS-BF01 = 6.79) and reaction time (JZS-BF01 = 5.94). Overall, we failed to replicate previous reports of successful modulations of mind-wandering propensity with tDCS over the IPL, instead of providing evidence in support of the lack of an effect. This and other recent unsuccessful replications call into question whether it is indeed possible to externally modulate spontaneous or self-generated cognitive processes.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2020 Coulborn, Bowman, Miall and Fernández-Espejo.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume14
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2020