Failure to Affect Decision Criteria During Recognition Memory With Continuous Theta Burst Stimulation
A decision criterion establishes the minimum amount of memory evidence required for recognition. When a liberal criterion is set, items are recognized based on weak evidence whereas a conservative criterion requires greater memory strength for recognition. The decision criterion is a fundamental aspect of recognition memory but little is known about the underlying neural mechanisms of maintaining a criterion. We used continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) with the goal of inhibiting prefrontal cortex excitability while participants performed recognition tests. We hypothesized that inhibiting the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG), right middle frontal gyrus (rMFG), and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) would cause participants to establish less conservative decision criteria without affecting recognition memory performance. Participants initially performed recognition memory tests while maintaining conservative decision criteria during fMRI scanning. Peak activity in the successful retrieval effect contrast (Hits > Correct Rejections) provided subject-specific cTBS target sites. During three separate sessions, participants completed the same recognition memory paradigm while maintaining conservative and liberal decision criteria both before and after cTBS. Across two experiments we failed to significantly alter decision criteria placement by applying cTBS to the rIFG, rMFG, and rDLPFC despite efforts to precisely target individualized brain areas. However, we unexpectedly improved discriminability following cTBS to the rDLPFC specifically when participants maintained a liberal criterion. Although this finding may guide future studies investigating the neural mechanisms underlying discriminability in recognition memory, cTBS proved ineffective at altering decision criteria.