Effective learning requires that attentional resources be focused on target information and withheld from irrelevant events in the learner's surroundings. This requires engagement of the brain substrates of selective attention and the concurrent disengagement of brain substrates of orienting toward changes in the environment. In the present study, we attempted to modulate activation of cortical substrates of attention during learning by physiological intervention, using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). To effect adversarial modulation, we applied anodal stimulation directed toward left intraparietal sulcus/superior parietal cortex (IPS/SPL; a substrate of selective attention) and cathodal stimulation directed toward right inferior parietal cortex (IPL; a substrate of orienting). Such stimulation during study of verbal materials led to superior subsequent recognition memory relative to the opposite polarity of stimulation. To our knowledge, this is the first application of direct current stimulation to parietal regions implicated in different forms of attention in an oppositional manner in order to modulate learning in a verbal recognition memory task. Additionally, these results may have practical implications for the development of interventions to benefit persons with various types of attentional deficits.
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