Focalised stimulation using high definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to investigate declarative verbal learning and memory functioning.Neuroimage. 2015 Aug 15; 117:11-9.N
Declarative verbal learning and memory are known to be lateralised to the dominant hemisphere and to be subserved by a network of structures, including those located in frontal and temporal regions. These structures support critical components of verbal memory, including working memory, encoding, and retrieval. Their relative functional importance in facilitating declarative verbal learning and memory, however, remains unclear.
To investigate the different functional roles of these structures in subserving declarative verbal learning and memory performance by applying a more focal form of transcranial direct current stimulation, "High Definition tDCS" (HD-tDCS). Additionally, we sought to examine HD-tDCS effects and electrical field intensity distributions using computer modelling.
HD-tDCS was administered to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LDLPFC), planum temporale (PT), and left medial temporal lobe (LMTL) to stimulate the hippocampus, during learning on a declarative verbal memory task. Sixteen healthy participants completed a single blind, intra-individual cross-over, sham-controlled study which used a Latin Square experimental design. Cognitive effects on working memory and sustained attention were additionally examined.
HD-tDCS to the LDLPFC significantly improved the rate of verbal learning (p=0.03, η(2)=0.29) and speed of responding during working memory performance (p=0.02, η(2)=0.35), but not accuracy (p=0.12, η(2)=0.16). No effect of tDCS on verbal learning, retention, or retrieval was found for stimulation targeted to the LMTL or the PT. Secondary analyses revealed that LMTL stimulation resulted in increased recency (p=0.02, η(2)=0.31) and reduced mid-list learning effects (p=0.01, η(2)=0.39), suggesting an inhibitory effect on learning.
HD-tDCS to the LDLPFC facilitates the rate of verbal learning and improved efficiency of working memory may underlie performance effects. This focal method of administrating tDCS has potential for probing and enhancing cognitive functioning.