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Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Feb 9;10:34. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00034. eCollection 2016.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Modulates Neuronal Activity and Learning in Pilot Training.

Author information

  • 1HRL Laboratories LLC Malibu, CA, USA.
  • 2HRL Laboratories LLCMalibu, CA, USA; Department of Psychiatry, The University of PittsburghPittsburgh, PA, USA; Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center, The University of New MexicoAlbuquerque, NM, USA.
  • 3HRL Laboratories LLCMalibu, CA, USA; Department of Sports Medicine, Pepperdine UniversityMalibu, CA, USA.
  • 4HRL Laboratories LLCMalibu, CA, USA; Advanced Technologies Laboratories, Lockheed MartinArlington, VA, USA.

Abstract

Skill acquisition requires distributed learning both within (online) and across (offline) days to consolidate experiences into newly learned abilities. In particular, piloting an aircraft requires skills developed from extensive training and practice. Here, we tested the hypothesis that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can modulate neuronal function to improve skill learning and performance during flight simulator training of aircraft landing procedures. Thirty-two right-handed participants consented to participate in four consecutive daily sessions of flight simulation training and received sham or anodal high-definition-tDCS to the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) or left motor cortex (M1) in a randomized, double-blind experiment. Continuous electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) were collected during flight simulation, n-back working memory, and resting-state assessments. tDCS of the right DLPFC increased midline-frontal theta-band activity in flight and n-back working memory training, confirming tDCS-related modulation of brain processes involved in executive function. This modulation corresponded to a significantly different online and offline learning rates for working memory accuracy and decreased inter-subject behavioral variability in flight and n-back tasks in the DLPFC stimulation group. Additionally, tDCS of left M1 increased parietal alpha power during flight tasks and tDCS to the right DLPFC increased midline frontal theta-band power during n-back and flight tasks. These results demonstrate a modulation of group variance in skill acquisition through an increasing in learned skill consistency in cognitive and real-world tasks with tDCS. Further, tDCS performance improvements corresponded to changes in electrophysiological and blood-oxygenation activity of the DLPFC and motor cortices, providing a stronger link between modulated neuronal function and behavior.

KEYWORDS:

DLPFC; EEG; M1; fNIRS; flight simulation; skill learning; tDCS

PMID:
26903841
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC4746294
Free PMC Article
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