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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2015, Article ID 410785, 9 pages
Research Article

The Role of the Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex in Phasic Alertness: Evidence from a Contingent Negative Variation and Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study

1Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale dell’Università 30, 00185 Rome, Italy
2Department of Neuroscience, AOU Careggi, Largo Brambilla 3, 50134 Florence, Italy
3IRCCS Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi, Via di Scandicci 265, 50143 Florence, Italy
4Department of Medical-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, A. Fiorini Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome, Polo Pontino, Via Firenze, 04019 Terracina, Italy
5Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale del Policlinico, 00185 Rome, Italy
6Neurology and Neurophysiopathology Unit, Sandro Pertini Hospital, Via Monti Tiburtini 385, 00157 Rome, Italy

Received 1 March 2015; Revised 25 April 2015; Accepted 2 May 2015

Academic Editor: Stuart C. Mangel

Copyright © 2015 Daniela Mannarelli 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.


Phasic alertness represents the ability to increase response readiness to a target following an external warning stimulus. Specific networks in the frontal and parietal regions appear to be involved in the alert state. In this study, we examined the role of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during the attentional processing of a stimulus using a cued double-choice reaction time task. The evaluation of these processes was conducted by means of Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), in particular by using the Contingent Negative Variation (CNV), and repetitive 1-Hz Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). Transient virtual inhibition of the right DLPFC induced by real 1-Hz rTMS stimulation led to a significant decrease in total CNV and W1-CNV areas if compared with the basal and post-sham rTMS conditions. Reaction times (RTs) did not decrease after inhibitory rTMS, but they did improve after sham stimulation. These results suggest that the right DLPFC plays a crucial role in the genesis and maintenance of the alerting state and learning processes.