Transcranial random noise stimulation is more effective than transcranial direct current stimulation for enhancing working memory in healthy individuals: behavioural and electrophysiological evidence
BACKGROUND:Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to improve working memory (WM) performance in healthy individuals, however effects tend to be modest and variable. Transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) can be delivered with a direct-current offset (DC-offset) to induce equal or even greater effects on cortical excitability than tDCS. To-date, no research has directly compared the effects of these techniques on WM performance or underlying neurophysiological activity. OBJECTIVE:To compare the effects of anodal tDCS, tRNS + DC-offset, or sham stimulation over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on WM performance and task-related EEG oscillatory activity in healthy adults. METHODS:Using a between-subjects design, 49 participants were allocated to receive either anodal tDCS (N = 16), high-frequency tRNS + DC-offset (N = 16), or sham stimulation (N = 17) to the left DLPFC. Changes in WM performance were assessed using the Sternberg WM task completed before and 5- and 25-min post-stimulation. Event-related synchronisation/desynchronisation (ERS/ERD) of oscillatory activity was analysed from EEG recorded during WM encoding and maintenance. RESULTS:tRNS induced more pronounced and consistent enhancements in WM accuracy when compared to both tDCS and sham stimulation. Improvements in WM performance following tRNS were accompanied by increased theta ERS and diminished gamma ERD during WM encoding, which were significantly greater than those observed following anodal tDCS or sham stimulation. CONCLUSIONS:These findings demonstrate the potential of tRNS + DC-offset to modulate cognitive and electrophysiological measures of WM and raise the possibility that tRNS + DC-offset may be more effective and reliable than tDCS for enhancing WM performance in healthy individuals.