The N-back task is widely used in cognitive research. Furthermore, the cerebellums role in cognitive processes is becoming more widely recognized. Studies using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have demonstrated effects of cerebellar stimulation on several cognitive tasks. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of cerebellar tDCS on cognitive performance by using the N-back task. The cerebellum of 12 participants was stimulated during the task. Moreover, the cognitive load was manipulated in N = 2, N = 3, and N = 4. Every participant received three tDCS conditions (anodal, cathodal, and sham) divided over three separated days. It was expected that anodal stimulation would improve performance on the task. Each participant performed 6 repetitions of every load in which correct responses, false alarms, and reaction times were recorded. We found significant differences between the three levels of load in the rate of correct responses and false alarms, indicating that subjects followed the expected pattern of performance for the N-back task. However, no significant differences between the three tDCS conditions were found. Therefore, it was concluded that in this study cognitive performance on the N-back task was not readily influenced by cerebellar tDCS, and any true effects are likely to be small. We discuss several limitations in task design and suggest future experiments to address such issues.

brain stimulation, cerebellum, cognitive performance, healthy humans, Memory, N-back task, transcranial direct current stimulation,
Neuropsychology, Development and Cognition. Section A: Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Erasmus University Rotterdam

van Wessel, B.W, Verhage, M.C, Holland, P.J, Frens, M.A, & van der Geest, J.N. (2015). Cerebellar tDCS does not affect performance in the N-back task. Neuropsychology, Development and Cognition. Section A: Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 38(3), 319–326. doi:10.1080/13803395.2015.1109610