Cognitive Plasticity and Transcranial Electrical Stimulation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter provides an introduction to transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), a non-invasive method for modulating activity in the underlying cortex by delivering a weak electrical current through electrodes placed on the scalp. Starting with an introduction to different types of stimulation, we go on to discuss our current understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms of tES before reviewing its utility as a tool to enhance cognitive function during and after cognitive training. While there is some evidence that tES can be used in conjunction with cognitive training to improve both training gains and transfer to untrained cognitive tasks, the results are mixed and inconclusive with as many studies reporting null effects as those that report positive effects. We discuss possible reasons for these inconsistent results and conclude that to fully understand the potential benefits of tES for enhancing cognitive plasticity we must: (i) develop a better understanding of how the cellular mechanisms of tES contribute to changes at the level of the cortex and (ii) consider optimising tES protocols at the level of the individual.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCognitive Training
Subtitle of host publicationAn Overview of Features and Applications: Second Edition
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030392925
ISBN (Print)9783030392918
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive training
  • Plasticity
  • Transcranial electrical stimulation
  • Working memory

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