Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Increasing breadth of semantic associations with left frontopolar direct current brain stimulation: a role for individual differences

Brunyé, Tad T.a,b; Moran, Joseph M.a,b; Cantelon, Juliea,b; Holmes, Amandaa,b; Eddy, Marianna D.a,b; Mahoney, Caroline R.a,b; Taylor, Holly A.b

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000348

The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of left frontopolar versus auditory (control) cortex transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on the breadth of semantic associations produced in a cued free association task. A within-participants design administered anodal tDCS over the left frontopolar or auditory cortex, centered at electrode site AFZ or T7 using a 4×1 targeted stimulation montage. During stimulation, participants produced free associates in response to cues designed to promote narrow, moderate, or broad semantic associations. We measured the latent semantic associative strength of generated words relative to cues. The cue manipulation produced expected effects on the associative breadth of generated words, but there was no main effect of stimulation site, and calculated Bayes factors showed strong support for the null hypothesis. However, individual differences in creative potential, as assessed by the remote associates test, reliably and positively predicted increases in associative breadth under the frontopolar versus the auditory control condition, but only in response to narrow cues. In conclusion, the present data support neuroimaging studies demonstrating the involvement of left frontopolar cortical regions in generating relatively broad semantic associations. They also provide novel evidence that individual differences in creative potential may modulate the influence of brain stimulation on the breadth of generated semantic associations.

aUS Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Natick

bDepartment of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Tad T. Brunyé, PhD, US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Cognitive Sciences, RDNS-SEW-THC, Building 4, Room 126, 15 Kansas St., Natick, MA 01760, USA Tel: +1 508 233 5597; fax: +1 617 627 3181; e-mail:

Received January 2, 2015

Accepted January 27, 2015

© 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins