Author: Marc Palaus Gallego
Programme: Doctoral Programme on the Information and Knowledge Society
Supervisor: Dr Elena Muñoz Marrón, Dr Diego Redolar Ripoll
Faculty / Institute: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
Key words: non-invasive brain stimulation, transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, cognitive enhancement, executive functions, video games
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) allows us to modulate cortical excitability levels with an exceptionally high spatial resolution, thereby achieving an impact on cognitive functions that may result in cognitive improvement. However, such changes are often transitory, meaning there is a need to develop optimized protocols that are capable of prolonging the duration of the effects. The effectiveness of TMS in achieving cognitive changes is potentiated when used in conjunction with cognitive training that stimulates the targeted cognitive function. Video games possess all the appropriate features for this purpose. The joint use of TMS and video game training is expected to create synergistic effects on cognitive performance, thereby enhancing the cognitive functions related to the stimulation site and the contexts exposed during video game play. Through exhaustive literature reviews, this thesis provides an in-depth analysis on cognitive enhancement through TMS, the neural correlates of video games, and cognitive enhancement as a result of video game training. For the experimental stage, intermittent theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (iTBS) over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was employed in hopes of inducing effects comparable to long-term potentiation. This was carried out during ten stimulation sessions performed over a two-week period. The variables (i.e. administration of active and sham iTBS together with high and low previous video game experience) were paired to create four experimental groups. Cognitive performance was assessed through a comprehensive neuropsychological battery at three different points in time. The effects of the non-invasive brain stimulation on cognitive enhancement in conjunction with the video game training were less evident and consistent than expected. However, previous video game experience was found to be determinant for both the baseline performance and the skill acquisition rate in a series of cognitive domains.