Modulating the interference effect on spatial working memory by applying transcranial direct current stimulation over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

Yi Jen Wu, Philip Tseng, Chi Fu Chang, Ming Chyi Pai, Kuei Sen Hsu, Chou Ching Lin, Chi Hung Juan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)


Spatial working memory (SWM) is the ability to temporarily store and manipulate spatial information. It has a limited capacity and is quite vulnerable to interference. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) has been shown to be a part of the SWM network but its specific functional role still remains unknown. Here we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that provides polarity-specific stimulation over the targeted region, to investigate the specific role of the right DLPFC in resolving interference in SWM. A forward- and backward-recall computerized Corsi Block Tapping task (CBT), both with and without a concurrent motor interference task (the modified Luria manual sequencing task) was used to measure SWM capacity and reaction time. The results showed that motor interference impeded accuracy and prolonged reaction time in forward and backward recall for SWM. Anodal tDCS over right DLPFC yielded the tendency to shorten participants' reaction time in the conditions with interference (forward with interference, and backward with interference). Most importantly, anodal tDCS significantly improved participants' SWM span when cognitive demand was the highest (the "backward-recall with motor interference" condition). These results suggest that (1) the right DLPFC plays a crucial role in dealing with the cross-domain motor interference for spatial working memory and (2) the anodal tDCS over right DLPFC improved SWM capacity particularly when task difficulty demands more complex mental manipulations that could be due to the facilitatory effect of anodal tDCS which enhanced the DLPFC function within central executive system at the top-down attentional level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalBrain and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2014



  • Corsi block tapping task
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Interference effect
  • Spatial working memory
  • Top-down control
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Visual short-term memory
  • Visual working memory
  • Visuospatial working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this