The purpose of this study is to better understand the neural correlates of cognitive control (CC) deficits in schizophrenia and determine how these mechanisms can be modulated by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). CC is a critical neurocognitive process that is required for flexible, directed thought and action based on goals and intentions. Identifying and developing paradigms to improve CC is therefore a mental health priority. Current theories of CC postulate that recruitment of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is essential for this process by maintaining high-level information that it can then use to orchestrate patterns of activation in other brain networks to support optimal performance. tDCS is a safe, noninvasive method of modulating regional brain excitability via brief (15-20 m) application of a weak (1-2 mA) current. The goal of the proposed experiments is to combine tDCS with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test the hypotheses that 1) acute tDCS over the DLPFC can improve performance during a CC task (the dot pattern expectancy (DPX) variant of the AX-Continuous Performance Task) in schizophrenia patients and healthy control subjects, and 2) acute tDCS over the DLPFC can increase recruitment of the DLPFC during the DPX. Effects of tDCS on brain functional connectivity (during CC as well as during the resting state) will also be examined, as well as effects on an episodic memory task. The current study will be the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of tDCS on the neuronal mechanisms of CC in schizophrenia, and has potentially important implications for therapeutic development for this treatment refractory yet disabling aspect of the illness.
The Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on the Neuronal Mechanisms of Cognitive Control in Schizophrenia