Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a reliable technique to improve motor learning. We here wanted to test its potential to enhance associative verbal learning, a skill crucial for both acquiring new languages in healthy individuals and for language reacquisition after stroke-induced aphasia. We applied tDCS (20 min, 1 mA) over the posterior part of the left peri-sylvian area of 19 young right-handed individuals while subjects acquired a miniature lexicon of 30 novel object names. Every subject participated in one session of anodal tDCS, one session of cathodal tDCS, and one sham session in a randomized and double-blinded design with three parallel versions of the miniature lexicon. Outcome measures were learning speed and learning success at the end of each session, and the transfer to the subjects' native language after the respective stimulation. With anodal stimulation, subjects showed faster and better associative learning as compared to sham stimulation. Mood ratings, reaction times, and response styles were comparable between stimulation conditions. Our results demonstrate that anodal tDCS is a promising technique to enhance language learning in healthy adults and may also have the potential to improve language reacquisition after stroke.