rTMS STIMULATION ON LEFT DLPFC AFFECTS EMOTIONAL CUE RETRIEVAL AS A FUNCTION OF ANXIETY LEVEL AND GENDER

Authors

  • Michela Balconi PhD,

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    • Laboratory of Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan
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  • Chiara Ferrari PhD


Correspondence to: Michela Balconi, Department of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Largo Gemelli, 1, 20123 Milan, Italy. E-mail: michela.balconi@unicatt.it

Abstract

Background

Anxiety behaviour showed a consistent attentional bias toward negative and aversive memories, induced by a right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) hyperactivation. In the present research, we explored the possible effect of rTMS (repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation) on the left DLPFC in memory retrieval of positive versus negative emotional words, to induce a balanced response between the two hemispheres. Moreover, the gender effect in emotional memory processing was verified as a function of the stimulus valence.

Methods

Thirty subjects, who were divided in two different groups depending on their anxiety level (high/low anxiety, State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (STAI)), were required to perform a task consisting of two experimental phases: an encoding phase (lists composed by positive and negative emotional words); and a retrieval phase (old stimuli and new stimuli to be recognized).

Results

We found that the rTMS stimulation over left DLPFC affects the memory retrieval. Specifically, high-anxiety subjects benefitted in greater measure to the frontal left stimulation with a reduced negative bias (increased accuracy and reduced response time (RT) for the positive stimuli). Whereas females showed a significant bias toward the negative memories, they did not benefit in greater measure to the TMS stimulation on the left hemisphere.

Conclusion

These results suggested that left DLPFC activation favors the memory retrieval of positive emotional information and may limit the “unbalance effect” induced by a right frontal hemispheric superiority in high levels of anxiety.

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