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Concept: Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


Noninvasive brain stimulation has shown considerable promise for enhancing cognitive functions by the long-term manipulation of neuroplasticity [1-3]. However, the observation of such improvements has been focused at the behavioral level, and enhancements largely restricted to the performance of basic tasks. Here, we investigate whether transcranial random noise stimulation (TRNS) can improve learning and subsequent performance on complex arithmetic tasks. TRNS of the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a key area in arithmetic [4, 5], was uniquely coupled with near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to measure online hemodynamic responses within the prefrontal cortex. Five consecutive days of TRNS-accompanied cognitive training enhanced the speed of both calculation- and memory-recall-based arithmetic learning. These behavioral improvements were associated with defined hemodynamic responses consistent with more efficient neurovascular coupling within the left DLPFC. Testing 6 months after training revealed long-lasting behavioral and physiological modifications in the stimulated group relative to sham controls for trained and nontrained calculation material. These results demonstrate that, depending on the learning regime, TRNS can induce long-term enhancement of cognitive and brain functions. Such findings have significant implications for basic and translational neuroscience, highlighting TRNS as a viable approach to enhancing learning and high-level cognition by the long-term modulation of neuroplasticity.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cerebrum, Perception, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area


Laughter is an ancient signal of social communication among humans and non-human primates. Laughter types with complex social functions (e.g., taunt and joy) presumably evolved from the unequivocal and reflex-like social bonding signal of tickling laughter already present in non-human primates. Here, we investigated the modulations of cerebral connectivity associated with different laughter types as well as the effects of attention shifts between implicit and explicit processing of social information conveyed by laughter using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Complex social laughter types and tickling laughter were found to modulate connectivity in two distinguishable but partially overlapping parts of the laughter perception network irrespective of task instructions. Connectivity changes, presumably related to the higher acoustic complexity of tickling laughter, occurred between areas in the prefrontal cortex and the auditory association cortex, potentially reflecting higher demands on acoustic analysis associated with increased information load on auditory attention, working memory, evaluation and response selection processes. In contrast, the higher degree of socio-relational information in complex social laughter types was linked to increases of connectivity between auditory association cortices, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and brain areas associated with mentalizing as well as areas in the visual associative cortex. These modulations might reflect automatic analysis of acoustic features, attention direction to informative aspects of the laughter signal and the retention of those in working memory during evaluation processes. These processes may be associated with visual imagery supporting the formation of inferences on the intentions of our social counterparts. Here, the right dorsolateral precentral cortex appears as a network node potentially linking the functions of auditory and visual associative sensory cortices with those of the mentalizing-associated anterior mediofrontal cortex during the decoding of social information in laughter.

Concepts: Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Primate, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Working memory


Evidence suggests that pathological eating behaviours in bulimia nervosa (BN) are underpinned by alterations in reward processing and self-regulatory control, and by functional changes in neurocircuitry encompassing the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Manipulation of this region with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may therefore alleviate symptoms of the disorder.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Bipolar disorder, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area, Working memory, Transcranial direct current stimulation


Maintaining grey matter within the hippocampus is important for healthy cognition. Playing 3D-platform video games has previously been shown to promote grey matter in the hippocampus in younger adults. In the current study, we tested the impact of 3D-platform video game training (i.e., Super Mario 64) on grey matter in the hippocampus, cerebellum, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of older adults. Older adults who were 55 to 75 years of age were randomized into three groups. The video game experimental group (VID; n = 8) engaged in a 3D-platform video game training over a period of 6 months. Additionally, an active control group took a series of self-directed, computerized music (piano) lessons (MUS; n = 12), while a no-contact control group did not engage in any intervention (CON; n = 13). After training, a within-subject increase in grey matter within the hippocampus was significant only in the VID training group, replicating results observed in younger adults. Active control MUS training did, however, lead to a within-subject increase in the DLPFC, while both the VID and MUS training produced growth in the cerebellum. In contrast, the CON group displayed significant grey matter loss in the hippocampus, cerebellum and the DLPFC.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Mario, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine


Drug-related cues induce craving, which may perpetuate drug use or trigger relapse in addicted individuals. Craving is also under the influence of other factors in daily life, such as drug availability and self-control. Neuroimaging studies using drug cue paradigms have shown frontal lobe involvement in this contextual influence on cue reactivity, but have not clarified how and which frontal area accounts for this phenomenon. We explored frontal lobe contributions to cue-induced drug craving under different intertemporal drug availability conditions by combining transcranial magnetic stimulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging in smokers. We hypothesized that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) regulates craving during changes in intertemporal availability. Subjective craving was greater when cigarettes were immediately available, and this effect was eliminated by transiently inactivating the DLPFC with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated that the signal most proportional to subjective craving was located in the medial orbitofrontal cortex across all contexts, whereas the DLPFC most strongly encoded intertemporal availability information. The craving-related signal in the medial orbitofrontal cortex was attenuated by inactivation of the DLPFC, particularly when cigarettes were immediately available. Inactivation of the DLPFC also reduced craving-related signals in the anterior cingulate and ventral striatum, areas implicated in transforming value signals into action. These findings indicate that DLPFC builds up value signals based on knowledge of drug availability, and support a model wherein aberrant circuitry linking dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices may underlie addiction.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebrum, Addiction, Limbic system, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Frontal lobe, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


The lateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices have both been implicated in emotion regulation, but their distinct roles in regulation of negative emotion remain poorly understood. To address this issue we enrolled 58 participants in an fMRI study in which participants were instructed to reappraise both negative and neutral stimuli. This design allowed us to separately study activations reflecting cognitive processes associated with reappraisal in general and activations specifically related to reappraisal of negative emotion. Our results confirmed that both the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) contribute to emotion regulation through reappraisal. However, activity in the DLPFC was related to reappraisal independently of whether negative or neutral stimuli were reappraised, whereas the lateral OFC was uniquely related to reappraisal of negative stimuli. We suggest that relative to the lateral OFC, the DLPFC serves a more general role in emotion regulation, perhaps by reflecting the cognitive demand that is inherent to the regulation task.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Frontal lobe, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area


There is evidence to suggest that successful lying necessitates cognitive effort. We tested this hypothesis by instructing participants to lie or tell the truth under conditions of high and low working memory (WM) load. The task required participants to register a response on 80 trials of identical structure within a 2 (WM Load: high, low) × 2 (Instruction: truth or lie) repeated-measures design. Participants were less accurate and responded more slowly when WM load was high, and also when they lied. High WM load activated the fronto-parietal WM network including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), middle frontal gyrus, precuneus, and intraparietal cortex. Lying activated areas previously shown to underlie deception, including middle and superior frontal gyrus and precuneus. Critically, successful lying in the high vs. low WM load condition was associated with longer response latency, and it activated the right inferior frontal gyrus-a key brain region regulating inhibition. The same pattern of activation in the inferior frontal gyrus was absent when participants told the truth. These findings demonstrate that lying under high cognitive load places a burden on inhibition, and that the right inferior frontal gyrus may provide a neural marker for successful lying.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Frontal lobe, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Inferior frontal gyrus, Working memory, Lie


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is associated with morbid fear of fatness, extreme food restriction and altered self-regulation. Neuroimaging data implicate fronto-striatal circuitry, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

Concepts: Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Neuropsychology, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


Enriched environments elicit brain plasticity in animals. In humans it is unclear which environment is enriching. Living in a city has been associated with increased amygdala activity in a stress paradigm, and being brought up in a city with increased pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) activity. We set out to identify geographical characteristics that constitute an enriched environment affecting the human brain. We used structural equation modelling on 341 older adults to establish three latent brain factors (amygdala, pACC and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)) to test the effects of forest, urban green, water and wasteland around the home address. Our results reveal a significant positive association between the coverage of forest and amygdala integrity. We conclude that forests may have salutogenic effects on the integrity of the amygdala. Since cross-sectional data does not allow causal inference it could also be that individuals with high structural integrity choose to live closer to forest.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Natural environment, Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Frontal lobe, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


We solve problems by applying previously learned rules. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plays a pivotal role in automating this process of rule induction. Despite its usual efficiency, this process fails when we encounter new problems in which past experience leads to a mental rut. Learned rules could therefore act as constraints which need to be removed in order to change the problem representation for producing the solution. We investigated the possibility of suppressing the DLPFC by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to facilitate such representational change. Participants solved matchstick arithmetic problems before and after receiving cathodal, anodal or sham tDCS to the left DLPFC. Participants who received cathodal tDCS were more likely to solve the problems that require the maximal relaxation of previously learned constraints than the participants who received anodal or sham tDCS. We conclude that cathodal tDCS over the left DLPFC might facilitate the relaxation of learned constraints, leading to a successful representational change.

Concepts: Cerebrum, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Problem solving, Brodmann area, Transcranial direct current stimulation