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Cortex. 2014 Jan;50:137-47. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.07.013. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Transcranial direct current stimulation over multiple days improves learning and maintenance of a novel vocabulary.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany; Center for Stroke Research, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany; Center for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Electronic address: m.meinzer@uq.edu.au.
2
Department of Neurology, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany.
3
Center for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; CCRE in Aphasia Rehabilitation, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
4
Center for Stroke Research, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany; Department for Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany.
5
Department of Neurology, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany; Center for Stroke Research, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany; NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address: agnes.floeel@charite.de.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Recently, growing interest emerged in the enhancement of human potential by means of non-invasive brain stimulation. In particular, anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (atDCS) has been shown to exert beneficial effects on motor and higher cognitive functions. However, the majority of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) studies have assessed effects of single stimulation sessions that are mediated by transient neural modulation. Studies assessing the impact of multiple stimulation sessions on learning that may induce long-lasting behavioural and neural changes are scarce and have not yet been accomplished in the language domain in healthy individuals.

METHOD:

The present study probed the potential of atDCS to enhance language learning over multiple days by employing an explicit word learning paradigm. Forty healthy young participants were randomized to learning with either simultaneous atDCS or sham stimulation (N = 20/group; comparable regarding demographic variables and neurocognitive status). All participants acquired a novel vocabulary (familiar and novel object picture - non-word pairs) over five consecutive days. Two memory tasks (free recall; forced choice recognition tasks) were administered immediately after each training session. A one week follow-up tested the maintenance of learning success.

RESULTS:

Linear mixed effects model analysis revealed superior learning during atDCS compared to sham stimulation for both familiar and novel objects. atDCS yielded a steeper learning curve and significantly more pronounced learning at the end of the training during the recall task. During the recognition task, the atDCS group reached ceiling levels earlier and overall learning success was greater. For both tasks, beneficial atDCS effects were maintained during the follow-up assessment.

CONCLUSIONS:

The present study provides direct evidence that atDCS administered during multiple learning sessions facilitates language learning and that effects are maintained over time. This study contributes important novel information about the extent of stimulation effects in the healthy brain, thereby highlighting the potential of atDCS to enhance language recovery after stroke.

KEYWORDS:

Brain stimulation; Language functions; Learning; Longitudinal design; Transcranial direct current stimulation

PMID:
23988131
DOI:
10.1016/j.cortex.2013.07.013
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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