tDCS for Cognitive Deficits

Learn more about the use of tDCS for Cognitive Deficits, how it works and the scientific evidence behind it.


What is tDCS?

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive, well-tolerated neurostimulation treatment. In practice, tDCS involves attaching an anode and cathode electrode to the head producing a weak electrical current that is applied to the brain. Several studies have shown positive effects on a range of conditions. tDCS equipment is easy to use, and the treatment is painless and safe. When combined with other therapies, tDCS can enhance their positive effects. Depending on the voltage, duration, polarity, and location of the electrodes, the applied current has an inhibiting or stimulating effect. tDCS modifies the resting membrane potential, either promoting or inhibiting the transmission of information. This allows the therapist to modulate neuronal excitability and activity levels. 



Why tDCS for Cognitive Deficits?

The rationale for exploring the effects of tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) in cognitive deficits stems from the potential of this non-invasive brain stimulation technique to modulate brain activity. When individuals experience cognitive deficits, it means they have difficulties with certain aspects of their thinking, memory, attention, or problem-solving abilities. These deficits can arise due to various conditions like stroke, traumatic brain injury, or neurodegenerative disorders. 

Researchers investigate tDCS as a potential intervention because it offers the opportunity to target specific brain regions and promote neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to reorganize and form new connections. By applying tDCS to regions associated with the cognitive functions affected, scientists aim to enhance brain activity and potentially improve cognitive performance. 

Additionally, tDCS is safe and non-invasive, making it an attractive option for investigating cognitive enhancement without major risks. Its potential benefits could extend to a wide range of cognitive deficits, providing hope for individuals facing challenges with memory, attention, and other cognitive processes. 

Overall, exploring the effects of tDCS in cognitive deficits is driven by the desire to discover novel and effective ways to enhance cognitive functioning, potentially leading to better treatment options and improved quality of life for individuals with cognitive impairments. 

Is tDCS for Cognitive Deficits scientifically proven?

tDCS has ‘Level C’ evidence as a treatment for Cognitive Deficit, which is considered to be ‘possibly effective’.  At this level, evidence is derived from expert opinion, case studies, or standard practice. It carries the least weight in terms of scientific rigor, compared to Level A and B evidence, but may be used when higher levels of evidence are not available. 

In this study by Ruf and colleagues in 2017, researchers tested a brain stimulation technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on working memory (WM) performance in healthy adults. They focused on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) region of the brain, which is involved in WM. 

Participants trained on spatial or verbal memory tasks while receiving either real tDCS (active) or fake tDCS (sham) in a randomized experiment. The researchers found that when tDCS was matched with the same type of memory task (spatial-right with spatial task or verbal-left with verbal task), the participants showed faster learning and improved memory performance compared to sham stimulation. 

The interesting part is that these benefits lasted for up to nine months, and participants also improved in untrained tasks similar to the ones they trained on. This suggests that tDCS can have long-lasting and transferable effects on specific types of memory tasks, which could be useful for treating memory-related disorders. 

Overall, the study indicates that tDCS paired with specific memory training could help enhance memory abilities, leading to potential applications in treating memory-related conditions. 


Scientific articles on tDCS for cognitive deficit

Mattioli F et al., Two Years Follow up of Domain Specific Cognitive Training in Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Front Behav Neurosci 2016 

Ruf SP et al., Augmentation of working memory training by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Nature, 2017 

Sacco K et al., Communicative-Pragmatic Treatment in Schizophrenia: A Pilot Study. Front Psychol 2016 

Lefaucheur JP et al., Evidence-based guidelines on the therapeutic use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Clin Neurophysiol 2017 


The information on this page is general in nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please speak with your doctor about your options for treatment.

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