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Reducing variability of perceptual decision making with offline theta-burst TMS of dorsal medial frontal cortex.

Brain Stimul. 2020 Oct 6;13(6):1689-1696. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2020.09.011. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33035723.

Authors/Editors: Willacker L, Roccato M, Can BN, Dieterich M, Taylor PCJ.
Publication Date: 2020



Background Recent evidence suggests that the dorsal medial frontal cortex (dMFC) may make an important contribution to perceptual decision-making, and not only to motor control.

Objective/hypothesis By fitting psychometric functions to behavioural data after TMS we tested whether the dMFC is critical specifically for the precision and/or bias of perceptual judgements. Additionally we aimed to disentangle potential roles of the dMFC in dealing with perceptual versus response switching.

Methods A subjective visual vertical task (SVV) was used in which participants weight visual (and other, e.g., vestibular) information to establish whether a line is oriented vertically. To ensure a high perceptual demand (putatively necessary to demonstrate a dMFC involvement) SVV lines were presented inside pop-out targets within a visual search array. Distinct features of perceptual performance were analysed before as compared to following theta-burst TMS stimulation of the dMFC, a control site, or no stimulation, in three groups, each of 20 healthy participants.

Results dMFC stimulation improved the precision of verticality judgments. Moreover, dMFC stimulation improved accuracy, selectively when response switches occurred with perceptual repeats.

Conclusion These findings point to a causal role of the dMFC in establishing the precision of perceptual decision making, demonstrably dissociable from an additional role in motor control in attentionally demanding contexts.

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