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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

May 2020, Vol. 32, No. 5, Pages 862-876
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01514)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Anodal High-definition Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation over the Posterior Parietal Cortex Modulates Approximate Mental Arithmetic
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The representation and processing of numerosity is a crucial cognitive capacity. Converging evidence points to the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) as primary “number” region. However, the exact role of the left and right PPC for different types of numerical and arithmetic tasks remains controversial. In this study, we used high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to further investigate the causal involvement of the PPC during approximative, nonsymbolic mental arithmetic. Eighteen healthy participants received three sessions of anodal HD-tDCS at 1-week intervals in counterbalanced order: left PPC, right PPC, and sham stimulation. Results showed an improved performance during online parietal HD-tDCS (vs. sham) for subtraction problems. Specifically, the general tendency to underestimate the results of subtraction problems (i.e., the “operational momentum effect”) was reduced during online parietal HD-tDCS. There was no difference between left and right stimulation. This study thus provides new evidence for a causal involvement of the left and right PPC for approximate nonsymbolic arithmetic and advances the promising use of noninvasive brain stimulation in increasing cognitive functions.