The effect of transcranial direct current stimulation on the interplay between executive control, behavioral variability and mind wandering: A registered report
Mind wandering (MW) is a mental phenomenon humans experience daily. Yet, we lack a complete understanding of the neural basis of this pervasive mental state. Over the past decade there has been an increase in publications using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to modulate the propensity to mind wander, but findings are diverse, and a satisfactory conclusion is missing. Recently, Boayue et al. (2020) reported successful reduction of mind wandering using high-definition tDCS (HD-tDCS) over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, providing preliminary evidence for the efficacy of HD-tDCS in interfering with mind wandering. The current study is a high-powered, pre-registered direct replication attempt of the effect found by Boayue et al. (2020). In addition, we investigated whether the effects of HD-tDCS on mind wandering would be prolonged and assessed the underlying processes of mind wandering using electroencephalography (EEG) and pupillometry during a finger-tapping random sequence generation task that requires the use of executive resources. We failed to find any evidence of the original effect of reduced MW during and after stimulation. When combining our data with the data from Boayue et al. (2020), the original effect of reduced MW caused by HD-tDCS disappeared. In addition, we observed increased occipital alpha power as task duration increased and increased midfrontal theta power preceding response patterns signaling high executive function use. Finally, tonic and phasic pupil size decreased as task duration increased yet, phasic responses were increased, while tonic responses were reduced preceding reports of MW. Additionally phasic pupil size also showed a tendency to be increased during periods of high executive function use. Importantly, none of the EEG or pupil measures were modulated by HD-tDCS. We conclude that HD-tDCS over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex does not affect MW propensity and its neural signatures. Furthermore, we recommend that previously reported effects of tDCS on mind wandering and other cognitive functions should only be accepted after a successful pre-registered replication.
CitationAlexandersen A, Mittner, Csifcsak, Groot. The effect of transcranial direct current stimulation on the interplay between executive control, behavioral variability and mind wandering: A registered report. Neuroimage: reports. 2022
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