No Evidence of Cognitive Improvement following tDCS-enhanced Mindfulness Meditation or Game-Based Brain Training

Elkin-Frankston, S.1, Lieberman, G.2,3,4,5, Guarino, S.1, Eusebi, L.1, Bezdek, M.6, Hunter, M.2,3, Lazar, S.7, Witkiewitz, K.2, Clark, V.2,3, Schumacher, E.6, and Romero, V.1

The 4th Annual BRAIN Initiatve Investigators Meeting, Rockville, MD (April 2018).

Measures of fluid intelligence are highly predictive of performance across a wide range of contexts, including academic performance and career success, and therefore strengthening fluid intelligence through a brief training-based intervention would be of significant benefit. Despite some evidence demonstrating a transfer effect from cognitive training to measures of fluid intelligence a clear consensus to the benefits of cognitive training has yet to be reached. The aim of this multi-site study was to investigate the impact of cognitive training in conjunction with transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) on improvements in fluid intelligence . This question was investigated in four labs using multiple training strategies across four experimental conditions:  brain-training games with tDCS, mindfulness meditation practice with tDCS, an active control condition with tDCS, and an active control with sham tDCS. In all conditions, anodal tDCS was targeted at the right inferior frontal cortex. tDCS has been shown to magnify the effects of cognitive training in a number of domains . Mindfulness training teaches sustained attention and has been associated with improved selective attention and working memory. Cognitive brain-training games have similarly been shown to target working memory, cognitive flexibility, and executive function. Despite previous findings to the contrary, the current analysis showed no significant changes in performance on measures of general intelligence following four weeks of training in any of the four experimental conditions.

1 Charles River Analytics, Cambridge, MA
2 University of New Mexico Department of Psychology, Albuquerque, NM
3 University of New Mexico Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center, Albuquerque, NM
4 U.S. Army Research Laboratory, HRED, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD
5 University of Pennsylvania Department of Bioengineering, Philadelphia, PA
6 Georgia Institute of Technology School of Psychology, Atlanta, GA
7 Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

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