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Gögler, Nadine; Willacker, Lina; Funk, Johanna; Strube, Wolfgang; Langgartner, Simon; Napirkowski, Natan; Hasan, Alkomiet; Finke, Kathrin (2017): Single-session transcranial direct current stimulation induces enduring enhancement of visual processing speed in patients with major depression. In: European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, Vol. 267, No. 7: pp. 671-686
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Abstract

Attentional deficits are considered key cognitive symptoms in major depressive disorder (MDD) arising from abnormal activation patterns within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) alertness networks. Altering these activity patterns with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) might thus ameliorate alertness-dependent cognitive deficits in MDD patients. In a double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled study, we investigated the effect of a single session of anodal tDCS (2 mA) applied to the left dlPFC on different parameters of visual attention based on Bundesen's theory of visual attention (Psychol Rev 97(4):523-547, 1990) in a group of 20 patients with MDD and a control group of 20 healthy participants. The parametric attention assessment took place before, immediately after and 24 h after tDCS intervention. It revealed a selective impairment in visual processing speed as a primary functional deficit in MDD at baseline assessment. Furthermore, a significant stimulation condition x time point interaction showed that verum tDCS over the left dlPFC resulted in a processing speed enhancement 24 h post-stimulation in MDD patients. In healthy control participants, we did not find similar tDCS-induced effects. Our results suggest that even a single session of tDCS over the dlPFC can induce enduring neurocognitive benefits that indicate an amelioration of cortical under-arousal in MDD patients in a time frame beyond that of immediate, excitability increases that are directly induced by the current.