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Exp Brain Res. 2011 Dec;215(3-4):315-25. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2899-1. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

The role of the right parietal lobe in the perception of causality: a tDCS study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Inferring causality is a fundamental feature of human cognition that allows us to predict outcomes in everyday events. Here, we use direct current stimulation (tDCS) to investigate the role of the right parietal lobe in the perception of causal events. Based on the results of a previous fMRI investigation, we hypothesized that the right parietal lobe plays a specific role in the processing of spatial attributes that contribute to judgments of causality. In line with our hypothesis, we found polarization-dependent modulation of causal judgments and corresponding reaction times (RTs) for trials with increasing violation of spatial contiguity in launching events. This effect was further modulated by temporal violations, as the effect of tDCS on the use of spatial information for causality judgements was strongest for trials with high temporal violations. Thus, especially for ambiguous trials with regard to temporal patterns, cathodal stimulation led to more liberal causality judgments for trials with high angles in movement trajectory. Furthermore, we found faster RTs after anodal stimulation of the right parietal lobe. These findings suggest a reduced influence of spatial attributes on the perception of causality after cathode stimulation of the right parietal lobe and an increased processing efficiency after anodal stimuli of the same region. These data demonstrate polarization-dependent tDCS modulation of spatial processing mechanisms within the right parietal lobe that contribute to the perception of causality.

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