Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2020 Sep 10. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsaa125

Midfrontal-occipital Ɵ-tACS modulates cognitive conflicts related to bodily stimuli

Neurophysiological studies show that during tasks tapping cognitive control (like the Flanker task), midfrontal theta (MFϴ) oscillations are associated with conflict and error processing and neural top- down modulation of perceptual processing. What remains unknown is whether perceptual encoding of category-specific stimuli (e.g. body vs letters) used in Flanker-like tasks is modulated by theta oscillations. To explore this issue, we delivered transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) in the theta frequency band (6Hz) over the medial frontal cortex (MFC) and the extrastriate body area (EBA) while healthy participants performed two variants of the classical Flanker task, one with stimuli representing human hands (i.e. Hand-Flanker) and the other with stimuli representing coloured letters (i.e. Letter-Flanker). More specifically, we aimed at investigating whether ϴ-tACS involving a body-related area may modulate the long-range communication between neuronal populations underlying conflict monitoring and visuo-perceptual encoding of hand stimuli without affecting the conflict driven by letter stimuli. Results showed faster correct response times during ϴ-tACS in the Hand-Flanker compared to γ-tACS (40Hz) and sham. Importantly, such an effect did not emerge in the Letter-Flanker. Our findings show that theta oscillations over midfrontal-occipital areas modulate bodily specific, stimulus content driven aspects of cognitive control.

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