Stress impacts prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity and modulates working memory performance. In a recent study, stimulating the dorsolateral PFC (dlPFC) using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) interacted with social stress in modulating participants’ working memory. More specifically, stress disrupted the enhancing effects of dlPFC tDCS on working memory performance. The current study aimed to further explore these initial findings by randomizing healthy females to four experimental conditions (N = 130); stimulation (right dlPFC tDCS vs. sham) and stress manipulation (social stress vs. control). Participants performed cognitive tasks (i.e., visual working memory task and a visual declarative memory task) at baseline and post-stimulation. They also completed self-report measures of stress and anxiety. A significant stimulation × stress interaction was evident in the declarative memory (One-Card Learning, OCL) task, while working memory performance was unaffected. Though tDCS stimulation and stress did not interact to affect working memory, further research is warranted as these initial findings suggest that immediate visual-memory learning may be affected by these factors. The limited number of earlier studies, as well as the variability in their designs, provides additional impetus for studying the interactive effects of stress and tDCS on human visual learning.
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- dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)
- n-back task
- social stress
- transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
- trier social stress test (TSST)