Response to Ruby et al: On a ‘failed’ attempt to manipulate conscious perception with transcranial magnetic stimulation to prefrontal cortex.


Does disruption of prefrontal cortical activity using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) impair visual metacognition? An initial study supporting this idea (Rounis, Maniscalco, Rothwell, Passingham, & Lau, 2010) motivated an attempted replication and extension (Bor, Schwartzman, Barrett, & Seth, 2017). Bor et al. failed to replicate the initial study, concluding that there was not good evidence that TMS to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex impairs visual metacognition. This failed replication has recently been critiqued by some of the authors of the initial study (Ruby, Maniscalco, & Peters, 2018). Here we argue that these criticisms are misplaced. In our response, we encounter some more general issues concerning good practice in replication of cognitive neuroscience studies, and in setting criteria for excluding data when employing statistical analyses like signal detection theory. We look forward to further studies investigating the role of prefrontal cortex in metacognition, with increasingly refined methodologies, motivated by the discussions in this series of papers.