Frontoparietal neurostimulation modulates working memory training benefits and oscillatory synchronization.Brain Res. 2017 07 15; 1667:28-40.BR
There is considerable interest in maintaining working memory (WM) because it is essential to accomplish most cognitive tasks, and it is correlated with fluid intelligence and ecologically valid measures of daily living. Toward this end, WM training protocols aim to improve WM capacity and extend improvements to unpracticed domains, yet success is limited. One emerging approach is to couple WM training with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This pairing of WM training with tDCS in longitudinal designs promotes behavioral improvement and evidence of transfer of performance gains to untrained WM tasks. However, the mechanism(s) underlying tDCS-linked training benefits remain unclear. Our goal was to gain purchase on this question by recording high-density EEG before and after a weeklong WM training+tDCS study. Participants completed four sessions of frontoparietal tDCS (active anodal or sham) during which they performed a visuospatial WM change detection task. Participants who received active anodal tDCS demonstrated significant improvement on the WM task, unlike those who received sham stimulation. Importantly, this pattern was mirrored by neural correlates in spectral and phase synchrony analyses of the HD-EEG data. Notably, the behavioral interaction was echoed by interactions in frontal-posterior alpha band power, and theta and low alpha oscillations. These findings indicate that one mechanism by which paired tDCS+WM training operates is to enhance cortical efficiency and connectivity in task-relevant networks.