Preliminary evidence for performance enhancement following parietal lobe stimulation in Developmental Dyscalculia.
Iuculano T., Cohen Kadosh R.
Nearly 7% of the population exhibit difficulties in dealing with numbers and performing arithmetic, a condition named Developmental Dyscalculia (DD), which significantly affects the educational and professional outcomes of these individuals, as it often persists into adulthood. Research has mainly focused on behavioral rehabilitation, while little is known about performance changes and neuroplasticity induced by the concurrent application of brain-behavioral approaches. It has been shown that numerical proficiency can be enhanced by applying a small-yet constant-current through the brain, a non-invasive technique named transcranial electrical stimulation (tES). Here we combined a numerical learning paradigm with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in two adults with DD to assess the potential benefits of this methodology to remediate their numerical difficulties. Subjects learned to associate artificial symbols to numerical quantities within the context of a trial and error paradigm, while tDCS was applied to the posterior parietal cortex (PPC). The first subject (DD1) received anodal stimulation to the right PPC and cathodal stimulation to the left PPC, which has been associated with numerical performance's improvements in healthy subjects. The second subject (DD2) received anodal stimulation to the left PPC and cathodal stimulation to the right PPC, which has been shown to impair numerical performance in healthy subjects. We examined two indices of numerical proficiency: (i) automaticity of number processing; and (ii) mapping of numbers onto space. Our results are opposite to previous findings with non-dyscalculic subjects. Only anodal stimulation to the left PPC improved both indices of numerical proficiency. These initial results represent an important step to inform the rehabilitation of developmental learning disabilities, and have relevant applications for basic and applied research in cognitive neuroscience, rehabilitation, and education.