November 2014, Vol. 26, No. 11, Pages 2443-2454
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Enhances Verbal Working Memory Training Performance over Time and Near Transfer Outcomes
Studies attempting to increase working memory (WM) capacity show promise in enhancing related cognitive functions but have also raised criticism in the broader scientific community given the inconsistent findings produced by these studies. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to enhance WM performance in a single session [Fregni, F., Boggio, P., Nitsche, M., Bermpohl, F., Anatal, A., Feredoes, E., et al. Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of prefrontal cortex enhances working memory. Experimental Brain Research, 166, 23–30, 2005]; however, the extent to which tDCS might enhance learning on a WM training regime and the extent to which learning gains might transfer outside the training task remains largely unknown. To this end, participants engaged in an adaptive WM training task [previously utilized in Richmond, L., Morrison, A., Chein, J., & Olson, I. Working memory training and transfer in older adults. Psychology & Aging, 26, 813–822, 2011; Chein, J., & Morrison, A. Expanding the mind's workspace: Training and transfer effects with a complex working memory span task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 193–199, 2010] for 10 sessions over 2 weeks, concurrent with either active or sham stimulation of dorsolateral pFC. Before and after training, a battery of tests tapping domains known to relate to WM abilities was administered. Results show that tDCS enhanced learning on the verbal portion of the training task by 3.65 items. Furthermore, tDCS was shown to enhance near transfer to other untrained WM tasks in comparison with a no-contact control group. These results lend support to the idea that tDCS might bolster training and transfer gains in populations with compromised WM abilities.