High-definition transcranial direct current stimulation modulates performance and alpha/beta parieto-frontal connectivity serving fluid intelligence

Yasra Arif, Rachel K. Spooner, Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Abstract: Fluid intelligence (Gƒ) includes logical reasoning abilities and is an essential component of normative cognition. Despite the broad consensus that parieto-prefrontal connectivity is critical for Gƒ (e.g. the parieto-frontal integration theory of intelligence, P-FIT), the dynamics of such functional connectivity during logical reasoning remains poorly understood. Further, given the known importance of these brain regions for Gƒ, numerous studies have targeted one or both of these areas with non-invasive stimulation with the goal of improving Gƒ, but to date there remains little consensus on the overall stimulation-related effects. To examine this, we applied high-definition direct current anodal stimulation to the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of 24 healthy adults for 20 min in three separate sessions (sham, left, and right active). Following stimulation, participants completed a logical reasoning task during magnetoencephalography (MEG). Significant neural responses at the sensor-level were imaged using a beamformer, and peak task-induced activity was subjected to dynamic functional connectivity analyses to evaluate the impact of distinct stimulation montages on network activity. We found that participants responded faster following right DLPFC stimulation vs. sham. Moreover, our neural findings followed a similar trajectory of effects such that left parieto-frontal connectivity decreased following right and left DLPFC stimulation compared to sham, with connectivity following right stimulation being significantly correlated with the faster reaction times. Importantly, our findings are consistent with P-FIT, as well as the neural efficiency hypothesis (NEH) of intelligence. In sum, this study provides evidence for beneficial effects of right DLPFC stimulation on logical reasoning. Key points: Logical reasoning is an indispensable component of fluid intelligence and involves multispectral oscillatory activity in parietal and frontal regions. Parieto-frontal integration is well characterized in logical reasoning; however, its direct neural quantification and neuromodulation by brain stimulation remain poorly understood. High-definition transcranial direct current stimulation of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) had modulatory effects on task performance and neural interactions serving logical reasoning, with right stimulation showing beneficial effects. Right DLPFC stimulation led to a decrease in the response time (i.e. better task performance) and left parieto-frontal connectivity with a marginal positive association between behavioural and neural metrics. Other modes of targeted stimulation of DLPFC (e.g. frequency-specific) can be employed in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5451-5463
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2021


  • functional connectivity
  • logical reasoning
  • magnetoencephalography
  • phase coherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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