Combining brain stimulation and video game to promote long-term transfer of learning and cognitive enhancement.
Looi CY., Duta M., Brem AK., Huber S., Nuerk HC., Cohen Kadosh R.
Cognitive training offers the potential for individualised learning, prevention of cognitive decline, and rehabilitation. However, key research challenges include ecological validity (training design), transfer of learning and long-term effects. Given that cognitive training and neuromodulation affect neuroplasticity, their combination could promote greater, synergistic effects. We investigated whether combining transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with cognitive training could further enhance cognitive performance compared to training alone, and promote transfer within a short period of time. Healthy adults received real or sham tDCS over their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices during two 30-minute mathematics training sessions involving body movements. To examine the role of training, an active control group received tDCS during a non-mathematical task. Those who received real tDCS performed significantly better in the game than the sham group, and showed transfer effects to working memory, a related but non-numerical cognitive domain. This transfer effect was absent in active and sham control groups. Furthermore, training gains were more pronounced amongst those with lower baseline cognitive abilities, suggesting the potential for reducing cognitive inequalities. All effects associated with real tDCS remained 2 months post-training. Our study demonstrates the potential benefit of this approach for long-term enhancement of human learning and cognition.