Transcranial direct current stimulation does not counteract cognitive fatigue, but induces sleepiness and an inter-hemispheric shift in brain oxygenation

Guillermo Borragán, Médhi Gilson, Carlos Guerrero-Mosquera, Eleonora Di Ricci, Hichem Slama, Philippe Peigneux

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Sustained cognitive demands may result in cognitive fatigue (CF), eventually leading to decreased behavioral performance and compromised brain resources. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) would counteract the behavioral and neurophysiological effects of CF. Twenty young healthy participants were tested in a within-subject counterbalanced order across two different days. Anodal tDCS (real vs. sham) was applied over the left prefrontal cortex. In the real tDCS condition, a current of 1.5 mA was delivered for 25 min. Cortical oxygenation changes were measured using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) on the frontal cortices. CF was triggered using the TloadDback task, a sustained working memory paradigm that allows tailoring task demands according to each individual's maximal cognitive capacity. Sustained cognitive load-related effects were assessed using pre- versus post-task subjective fatigue and sleepiness scales, evolution of performance accuracy within the task, indirect markers of dopaminergic activity (eye blinks), and cortical oxygenation changes (fNIRS) both during the task and pre- and post-task resting state periods. Results consistently disclosed significant CF-related effects on performance. Transcranial DCS was not effective to counteract the behavioral effects of CF. In the control (sham tDCS) condition, cerebral oxygen exchange (COE) levels significantly increased in the right hemisphere during the resting state immediately after the induction of CF, suggesting a depletion of brain resources. In contrast, tDCS combined with CF induction significantly shifted interhemispheric oxygenation balance during the post-training resting state. Additionally, increased self-reported sleepiness was associated with brain activity in the stimulated hemisphere after recovery from CF during the tDCS condition only, which might reflect a negative middle-term effect of tDCS application.

Idioma originalAnglès
Número d’article2351
RevistaFrontiers in Psychology
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - 30 de nov. 2018
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