Increasing propensity to mind-wander by transcranial direct current stimulation? A registered report

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article – Annual report year: 2019Researchpeer-review


  • Author: Boayue, Nya Mehnwolo

    University of Tromsø, Norway

  • Author: Csifcsák, Gábor

    University of Tromsø, Norway

  • Author: Aslaksen, Per M.

    University of Tromsø, Norway

  • Author: Turi, Zsolt

    University of Göttingen, Germany

  • Author: Antal, Andrea

    University of Göttingen, Germany

  • Author: Groot, Josephine

    University of Tromsø, Norway

  • Author: Hawkins, Guy E.

    University of Newcastle, United Kingdom

  • Author: Forstmann, Birte U.

    University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Author: Opitz, Alexander

    University of Minnesota, United States

  • Author: Thielscher, Axel

    Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance

    CMR Center for Magnetic Resonance, Magnetic Resonance, Department of Health Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Ørsteds Plads, 2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

  • Author: Mittner, Matthias

    University of Tromsø, Norway

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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proposed to be able to modulate different cognitive functions. However, recent meta-analyses conclude that its efficacy is still in question. Recently, an increase in subjects’ propensity to mind-wander has been reported as a consequence of anodal stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Axelrod et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 2015). In addition, an independent group found a decrease in mind wandering after cathodal stimulation of the same region. These findings seem to indicate that high-level cognitive processes such as mind wandering can reliably be influenced by non-invasive brain stimulation. However, these previous studies used low sample sizes and are as such subject to concerns regarding the replicability of their findings. In this registered report, we implement a high-powered replication of Axelrod et al. (2015) finding that mind-wandering propensity can be increased by anodal tDCS. We used Bayesian statistics and a preregistered sequential-sampling design resulting in a total sample size of N = 192 participants collected across three different laboratories. Our findings show support against a stimulation effect on self-reported mind-wandering scores. The effect was small, in the opposite direction as predicted and not reliably different from zero. Using a Bayes Factor specifically designed to test for replication success, we found strong evidence against a successful replication of the original study. Finally, even when combining data from both the original and replication studies, we could not find evidence for an effect of anodal stimulation. Our results underline the importance of designing studies with sufficient power to detect evidence for or against behavioural effects of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, preferentially using robust Bayesian statistics in preregistered reports.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: No match on DOI

    Research areas

  • DLPFC, Mind wandering, Non-invasive brain stimulation, tDCS

ID: 188697629