Simultaneous tDCS and fMRI Reveals How Brain Stimulation Enhances Complex Perceptual Learning Through Modulation of Task-Relevant Networks

Brian Falcone

Major Professor: Matthew S. Peterson, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Jim Thompson, Eva Wiese

Research Hall, #92
December 04, 2015, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


The purpose of this series of experiments was to determine whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) accelerates perceptual learning on complex visual attention tasks and what neural mechanisms underlie this cognitive enhancement. The first experiment showed that tDCS augmented both skill acquisition and retention in a complex detection task and that the benefits are rooted in an improvement in sensitivity (d’), rather than changes in response bias (ß). The second experiment used simultaneous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and tDCS to identify a link between active tDCS-modulated brain activity during learning and modulated brain activity following training that was found to be correlated with visual search improvement.  The final study found resting state activity and functional connectivity that predicted future enhancement in visual search performance as a result of tDCS. While this series of experiments identifies the neural mechanisms by which tDCS enhances learning through modulation of networks relevant to visual attention tasks, it can be assumed that a similar mechanism should be observed within networks relevant to other types of cognitive learning.