Post-training stimulation impairs working memory

Post-training stimulation of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex impairs working memory training performance.

Research investigating transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance cognitive training augments both our understanding of its long-term effects on cognitive plasticity as well as potential applications to strengthen cognitive interventions. Previous work has demonstrated enhancement of working memory training while applying concurrent tDCS to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). However, the optimal stimulation parameters are still unknown. For example, the timing of tDCS delivery has been shown to be an influential variable that can interact with task learning. In the present study, we used tDCS to target the right DLPFC while participants trained on a visuospatial working memory task. We sought to compare the relative efficacy of online stimulation delivered during training to offline stimulation delivered either immediately before or afterwards. We were unable to replicate previously demonstrated benefits of online stimulation; however, we did find evidence that offline stimulation delivered after training can actually be detrimental to training performance relative to sham. We interpret our results in light of evidence suggesting a role of the right DLPFC in promoting memory interference, and conclude that while tDCS may be a promising tool to influence the results of cognitive training, more research and an abundance of caution are needed before fully endorsing its use for cognitive enhancement. This work suggests that effects can vary substantially in magnitude and direction between studies, and may be heavily dependent on a variety of intervention protocol parameters such as the timing and location of stimulation delivery, about which our understanding is still nascent.

PMID: 33438297 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

J Neurosci Res. 2021 Jan 12;:

Authors: Au J, Katz B, Moon A, Talati S, Abagis TR, Jonides J, Jaeggi SM




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