Reading proficiency influences the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation: Evidence from selective modulation of dorsal and ventral pathways of reading in bilinguals

Abstract

Introduction: tDCS can modulate reading which is processed by lexical (ventral) and sub-lexical (dorsal) pathways. Previous research indicates that pathway recruitment in bilinguals depends on a script’s orthographic depth and a reader’s proficiency with it. The effect of tDCS on each reading pathway has not been investigated in bilinguals. We stimulated the left dorsal and ventral pathways separately in Chinese-English (C-E) bilinguals to understand whether pathway-specific modulation by tDCS is possible and, if so, how it is influenced by orthographic depth and script proficiency. Methods: A double-blind, sham-controlled, within-subject experiment was designed wherein 16 balanced bilinguals received anodal tDCS in dorsal, ventral and sham sessions. Two tDCS montages of electrode sizes 5 x 5 cm2 with 1) anode at CP5 and cathode at CZ, and 2) anode at TP7 and cathode at nape of the neck, were applied for stimulating the dorsal and ventral pathways respectively. Bilinguals were asked to read word lists for each language before and after stimulation. RTs for accurate trials were analysed using linear mixed-effect modelling that included proficiency scores for reading English pseudo-words (PW) and Chinese pinyin. Results: For both languages, word reading RTs were faster following dorsal pathway stimulation. The dorsal stimulation effect (change in RT) was negatively correlated with pseudoword reading and pinyin proficiency. Stimulation of the ventral pathway decreased RTs only for Chinese reading. Conclusion: Dorsal and ventral reading pathways can be selectively modulated by tDCS in bilingual readers with dorsal (sub-lexical) pathway stimulation affecting reading in both scripts and ventral (lexical) pathway stimulation selectively affecting Chinese reading. Dorsal pathway tDCS effects are modulated by sub-lexical reading proficiency.

Publication
Bhattacharjee, S., Kashyap, R., O’Brien, B. A., McCloskey, M., Oishi, K., Desmond, J. E., … & Chen, S. H. A. (2020). Reading proficiency influences the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation: Evidence from selective modulation of dorsal and ventral pathways of reading in bilinguals. Brain and Language, 210, 104850. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2020.104850
Rajan Kashyap
Rajan Kashyap
Research Fellow
Annabel Chen
Annabel Chen
Professor of Psychology
Lab Director

Dr. SH Annabel Chen is a clinical neuropsychologist, and currently a Faculty member of Psychology at the School of Social Sciences.

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