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When problem size matters: differential effects of brain stimulation on arithmetic problem solving and neural oscillations


Rütsche, Bruno; Hauser, Tobias U; Jäncke, Lutz; Grabner, Roland H (2015). When problem size matters: differential effects of brain stimulation on arithmetic problem solving and neural oscillations. PLoS ONE, 10(3):e0120665.

Abstract

The problem size effect is a well-established finding in arithmetic problem solving and is characterized by worse performance in problems with larger compared to smaller operand size. Solving small and large arithmetic problems has also been shown to involve different cognitive processes and distinct electroencephalography (EEG) oscillations over the left posterior parietal cortex (LPPC). In this study, we aimed to provide further evidence for these dissociations by using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Participants underwent anodal (30min, 1.5 mA, LPPC) and sham tDCS. After the stimulation, we recorded their neural activity using EEG while the participants solved small and large arithmetic problems. We found that the tDCS effects on performance and oscillatory activity critically depended on the problem size. While anodal tDCS improved response latencies in large arithmetic problems, it decreased solution rates in small arithmetic problems. Likewise, the lower-alpha desynchronization in large problems increased, whereas the theta synchronization in small problems decreased. These findings reveal that the LPPC is differentially involved in solving small and large arithmetic problems and demonstrate that the effects of brain stimulation strikingly differ depending on the involved neuro-cognitive processes.

Abstract

The problem size effect is a well-established finding in arithmetic problem solving and is characterized by worse performance in problems with larger compared to smaller operand size. Solving small and large arithmetic problems has also been shown to involve different cognitive processes and distinct electroencephalography (EEG) oscillations over the left posterior parietal cortex (LPPC). In this study, we aimed to provide further evidence for these dissociations by using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Participants underwent anodal (30min, 1.5 mA, LPPC) and sham tDCS. After the stimulation, we recorded their neural activity using EEG while the participants solved small and large arithmetic problems. We found that the tDCS effects on performance and oscillatory activity critically depended on the problem size. While anodal tDCS improved response latencies in large arithmetic problems, it decreased solution rates in small arithmetic problems. Likewise, the lower-alpha desynchronization in large problems increased, whereas the theta synchronization in small problems decreased. These findings reveal that the LPPC is differentially involved in solving small and large arithmetic problems and demonstrate that the effects of brain stimulation strikingly differ depending on the involved neuro-cognitive processes.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 University Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:18 May 2015 15:01
Last Modified:14 Feb 2018 09:09
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120665
PubMed ID:25789486

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