Brain Sciences, Vol. 12, Pages 30: Multisession Anodal tDCS on the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction Improves Mentalizing Processes in Adults with Autistic Traits

Brain Sciences doi: 10.3390/brainsci12010030

Iván Padrón
Enrique García-Marco
Iván Moreno
Agustina Birba
Valentina Silvestri
Inmaculada León
Carlos Álvarez
Joana López
Manuel de Vega

Persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have impaired mentalizing skills. In this study, a group of persons with ASD traits (high-AQ scores) initially received sham tDCS before completing a pre-test in two mentalizing tasks: false belief and self-other judgments. Over the next week, on four consecutive days, they received sessions of anodal electrical stimulation (a-tDCS) over the right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ), a region frequently associated with the theory of mind. On the last day, after the stimulation session, they completed a new set of mentalizing tasks. A control group (with low-AQ scores) matched in age, education and intelligence received just sham stimulation and completed the same pre-test and post-test. The results showed that the high-AQ group improved their performance (faster responses), after a-tDCS, in the false belief and in the self-other judgments of mental features, whereas they did not change performance in the false photographs or the self-other judgments of physical features. These selective improvements cannot be attributed to increased familiarity with the tasks, because the performance of the low-AQ control group remained stable about one week later. Therefore, our study provides initial proof that tDCS could be used to improve mentalizing skills in persons with ASD traits.

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