Polarity-specific high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation of the anterior and posterior default mode network improves remote memory retrieval

Background: Previous studies show that activity in the posterior default mode network (pDMN), including the posterior cingulate cortex and the precuneus, is correlated with the success of long-term episodic memory retrieval. However, the role of the anterior DMN (aDMN) including the medial prefrontal cortex is still unclear. Some studies show that activating the medial prefrontal cortex improves memory retrieval while other studies show deactivation of the medial prefrontal cortex in successful retrieval of episodic memories, suggesting a possible functional dissociation between the aDMN and pDMN.

Objective: In the current study, we aim to causally explore this probable dissociation using highdefinition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS).

Methods: We perform a randomised double-blinded two-visit placebo-controlled study with 84 healthy young adults. During Visit 1 they learn 75 Swahili-English word-associations. Seven days later, they randomly receive either anodal, cathodal or sham HD-tDCS targeting the pDMN or aDMN while they recall what they have previously learned.

Results: We demonstrate that anodal stimulation of the pDMN and cathodal stimulation of the aDMN, equally improve the percentage of Swahili-English word-associations recalled 7 days after learning.

Conclusions: Modulating the activity in the aDMN and pDMN causally affect memory retrieval performance. HD-tDCS of the aDMN and pDMN shows that anodal stimulation of the pDMN and cathodal stimulation of the aDMN increases memory retrieval performance one week after the learning phase.

Given consistent evidence, it is highly likely that we are increasing the activity in the pDMN with anodal pDMN stimulation. However, it is not clear if cathodal HD-tDCS targetting aDMN works via decoupling from the pDMN or via indirectly disinhibit pDMN.

© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license


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