Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Front Integr Neurosci. 2022 Jul 22;16:953928. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2022.953928

Neuromodulating the performance monitoring network during conflict and error processing in healthy populations: Insights from transcranial electric stimulation studies

The performance monitoring system is fundamentally important for adapting one’s own behavior in conflicting and error-prone, highly demanding circumstances. Flexible behavior requires that neuronal populations optimize information processing through efficient multi-scale communication. Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) fields to alter the cortical activity promise to illuminate the neurophysiological mechanisms that underpin neuro-cognitive and behavioral processing and their causal relationship. Here, we focus on the transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) that have been increasingly used in cognitive neuroscience for modulating superficial neural networks in a polarity (tDCS) and frequency/phase (tACS) fashion. Specifically, we discuss recent evidence showing how tDCS and tACS modulate the performance monitoring network in neurotypical samples. Emphasis is given to studies using behavioral tasks tapping conflict and error processing such as the Stroop, the Flanker, and the Simon tasks. The crucial role of mid-frontal brain regions (such as the medial frontal cortex, MFC; and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dACC) and of theta synchronization in monitoring conflict and error is highlighted. We also discuss current technological limitations (e.g., spatial resolution) and the specific methodological strategies needed to properly modulate the cortical and subcortical regions.

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