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Neuroscience Journal
Volume 2013, Article ID 187692, 10 pages
Research Article

The Modulation of Error Processing in the Medial Frontal Cortex by Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

1Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Würzburg, Füchsleinstraβe 15, 97080 Würzburg, Germany
2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tübingen, Calwerstr. 14, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

Received 2 November 2012; Revised 14 February 2013; Accepted 12 March 2013

Academic Editor: Stefan Berti

Copyright © 2013 Lisa Bellaïche et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. In order to prevent future errors, we constantly control our behavior for discrepancies between the expected (i.e., intended) and the real action outcome and continuously adjust our behavior accordingly. Neurophysiological correlates of this action-monitoring process can be studied with event-related potentials (error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe)) originating from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Patients with neuropsychiatric diseases often show performance monitoring dysfunctions potentially caused by pathological changes of cortical excitability; therefore, a modulation of the underlying neuronal activity might be a valuable therapeutic tool. One technique which allows us to explore cortical modulation of neural networks is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Therefore, we tested the effect of medial-prefrontal tDCS on error-monitoring potentials in 48 healthy subjects randomly assigned to anodal, cathodal, or sham stimulation. Results. We found that cathodal stimulation attenuated Pe amplitudes compared to both anodal and sham stimulation, but no effect for the ERN. Conclusions. Our results indicate that cathodal tDCS over the mPFC results in an attenuated cortical excitability leading to decreased Pe amplitudes. We therefore conclude that tDCS has a neuromodulatory effect on error-monitoring systems suggesting a future approach to modify the sensitivity of corresponding neural networks in patients with action-monitoring deficits.