Preliminary effects of prefrontal tDCS on dopamine-mediated behavior and psychophysiology
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The ability to manipulate dopamine in vivo through non-invasive, reversible mechanisms has the potential to impact clinical, translational, and basic research. Recent PET studies have demonstrated increased dopamine release in the striatum after bifrontal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We sought to extend this work by examining whether bifrontal tDCS could demonstrate an effect on behavioral and physiological correlates of subcortical dopamine activity. We conducted a preliminary between-subjects study (n = 30) with active and sham tDCS and used spontaneous eye blink rate (EBR), facial attractiveness ratings, and greyscales orienting bias as indirect proxies for dopamine functioning. The initial design and analyses were pre-registered (https://osf.io/gmnpc). Stimulation did not significantly affect any of the three measures, though effect sizes were often moderately large and were all in the predicted directions. Additional exploratory analyses suggested that stimulation's effect on EBR might depend on pre-stimulation dopamine levels. Our results suggest that larger samples than those that are standard in tDCS literature should be used to assess the effect of tDCS on dopamine using indirect measures. Further, exploratory results add to a growing body of work demonstrating the importance of accounting for individual differences in tDCS response.
author list (cited authors)
Imburgio, M. J., Ballard, H. K., Cornwall, A. C., Worthy, D. A., Bernard, J. A., & Orr, J. M.