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Brain Stimul. 2014 Jul-Aug;7(4):499-507. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2014.04.008. Epub 2014 May 9.

A comparison of the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation and caffeine on vigilance and cognitive performance during extended wakefulness.

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Infoscitex Inc., Dayton, OH, USA.
711th HPW, Applied Neuroscience Branch, 2510 Fifth Street, Bldg 840, USA. Electronic address:



Sleep deprivation from extended duty hours is a common complaint for many occupations. Caffeine is one of the most common countermeasures used to combat fatigue. However, the benefits of caffeine decline over time and with chronic use.


Our objective was to evaluate the efficacy of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied to the pre-frontal cortex at 2 mA for 30 min to remediate the effects of sleep deprivation and to compare the behavioral effects of tDCS with those of caffeine.


Three groups of 10 participants each received either active tDCS with placebo gum, caffeine gum with sham tDCS, or sham tDCS with placebo gum during 30 h of extended wakefulness.


Our results show that tDCS prevented a decrement in vigilance and led to better subjective ratings for fatigue, drowsiness, energy, and composite mood compared to caffeine and control in sleep-deprived individuals. Both the tDCS and caffeine produced similar improvements in latencies on a short-term memory task and faster reaction times in a psychomotor task when compared to the placebo group. Interestingly, changes in accuracy for the tDCS group were not correlated to changes in mood; whereas, there was a relationship for the caffeine and sham groups.


Our data suggest that tDCS could be a useful fatigue countermeasure and may be more beneficial than caffeine since boosts in performance and mood last several hours.


Attention; Caffeine; Cognition; Sleep deprivation; Transcranial direct current stimulation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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