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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 1;32(5):1859-66. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4812-11.2012.

Electrical brain stimulation improves cognitive performance by modulating functional connectivity and task-specific activation.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Center for Stroke Research Berlin, and Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure, Charite Universitätsmedizin, Berlin 10117, Germany.


Excitatory anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (atDCS) can improve human cognitive functions, but neural underpinnings of its mode of action remain elusive. In a cross-over placebo ("sham") controlled study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate neurofunctional correlates of improved language functions induced by atDCS over a core language area, the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Intrascanner transcranial direct current stimulation-induced changes in overt semantic word generation assessed behavioral modulation; task-related and task-independent (resting-state) fMRI characterized language network changes. Improved word-retrieval during atDCS was paralleled by selectively reduced task-related activation in the left ventral IFG, an area specifically implicated in semantic retrieval processes. Under atDCS, resting-state fMRI revealed increased connectivity of the left IFG and additional major hubs overlapping with the language network. In conclusion, atDCS modulates endogenous low-frequency oscillations in a distributed set of functionally connected brain areas, possibly inducing more efficient processing in critical task-relevant areas and improved behavioral performance.

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