The effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on within- and cross-paradigm transfer following multi-session backward recall training

Elizabeth M. Byrne, Michael P. Ewbank, Susan E. Gathercole, Joni Holmes

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to enhance the efficacy and generalisation of working memory (WM) training, but there has been little systematic investigation into how coupling task-specific WM training with stimulation impacts more specifically on transfer to untrained tasks. This randomised controlled trial investigated the boundary conditions to transfer by testing firstly whether the benefits of training on backward digit recall (BDR) extend to untrained backward recall tasks and n-back tasks with different materials, and secondly which, if any, form of transfer is enhanced by tDCS. Forty-eight participants were allocated to one of three conditions: BDR training with anodal (10 min, 1 mA) or sham tDCS, or visual search training with sham tDCS, applied over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Transfer was assessed on within- (backward recall with digits, letters, and spatial locations) and cross-paradigm (n-back with digits and letters) transfer tests following three sessions of training and stimulation. On-task training gains were found, with transfer to other backward span but not n-back tasks. There was little evidence that tDCS enhanced on-task training or transfer. These findings indicate that training enhances paradigm-specific processes within WM, but that tDCS does not enhance these gains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105552
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Cognition
Early online date19 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Brain stimulation
  • Cognitive training
  • tDCS
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Working memory

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