Categorization is modulated by transcranial direct current stimulation over left prefrontal cortex

Academic Article


  • Humans have an unparalleled ability to represent objects as members of multiple categories. A given object, such as a pillow may be-depending on current task demands-represented as an instance of something that is soft, as something that contains feathers, as something that is found in bedrooms, or something that is larger than a toaster. This type of processing requires the individual to dynamically highlight task-relevant properties and abstract over or suppress object properties that, although salient, are not relevant to the task at hand. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological evidence suggests that this ability may depend on cognitive control processes associated with the left inferior prefrontal gyrus. Here, we show that stimulating the left inferior frontal cortex using transcranial direct current stimulation alters performance of healthy subjects on a simple categorization task. Our task required subjects to select pictures matching a description, e.g., " click on all the . round things." Cathodal stimulation led to poorer performance on classification trials requiring attention to specific dimensions such as color or shape as opposed to trials that required selecting items belonging to a more thematic category such as . objects that hold water. A polarity reversal (anodal stimulation) lowered the threshold for selecting items that were more weakly associated with the target category. These results illustrate the role of frontally-mediated control processes in categorization and suggest potential interactions between categorization, cognitive control, and language. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Cognition  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lupyan G; Mirman D; Hamilton R; Thompson-Schill SL
  • Start Page

  • 36
  • End Page

  • 49
  • Volume

  • 124
  • Issue

  • 1