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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2011, Vol. 23, No. 11, Pages 3380-3387
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00020)
© 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Activation of Inhibition: Diminishing Impulsive Behavior by Direct Current Stimulation over the Inferior Frontal Gyrus
Article PDF (197.38 KB)

A common feature of human existence is the ability to reverse decisions after they are made but before they are implemented. This cognitive control process, termed response inhibition, refers to the ability to inhibit an action once initiated and has been localized to the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) based on functional imaging and brain lesion studies. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a brain stimulation technique that can facilitate as well as impair cortical function. To explore whether response inhibition can be improved through rIFG electrical stimulation, we administered focal tDCS before subjects performed the stop signal task (SST), which measures response inhibition. Notably, activation of the rIFG by unilateral anodal stimulation significantly improved response inhibition, relative to a sham condition, whereas the same tDCS protocol did not affect response time in the go trials of the SST and in a control task. Furthermore, the SST was not affected by tDCS at a control site, the right angular gyrus. Our results are the first demonstration of response inhibition improvement with brain stimulation over rIFG and further confirm the rIFG involvement in this task. Although this study was conducted in healthy subjects, present findings with anodal rIFG stimulation support the use of similar paradigms for the treatment of cognitive control impairments in pathological conditions.