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Brain stimulation

Oscillating Square Wave Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) Delivered During Slow Wave Sleep Does Not Improve Declarative Memory More Than Sham: A Randomized Sham Controlled Crossover Study.


PMID 25795621

Abstract

A 2006 trial in healthy medical students found that anodal slow oscillating tDCS delivered bi-frontally during slow wave sleep had an enhancing effect in declarative, but not procedural memory. Although there have been supporting animal studies, and similar findings in pathological groups, this study has not been replicated, or refuted, in the intervening years. We therefore tested these earlier results for replication using similar methods with the exception of current waveform (square in our study, nearly sinusoidal in the original). Our objective was to test the findings of a 2006 trial suggesting bi-frontal anodal tDCS during slow wave sleep enhances declarative memory. Twelve students (mean age 25, 9 women) free of medical problems underwent two testing conditions (active, sham) in a randomized counterbalanced fashion. Active stimulation consisted of oscillating square wave tDCS delivered during early Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. The sham condition consisted of setting-up the tDCS device and electrodes, but not turning it on during sleep. tDCS was delivered bi-frontally with anodes placed at F3/F4, and cathodes placed at mastoids. Current density was 0.517 mA/cm(2), and oscillated between zero and maximal current at a frequency of 0.75 Hz. Stimulation occurred during five-five minute blocks with 1-min inter-block intervals (25 min total stimulation). The primary outcomes were both declarative memory consolidation measured by a paired word association test (PWA), and non-declarative memory, measured by a non-dominant finger-tapping test (FTT). We also recorded and analyzed sleep EEG. There was no difference in the number of paired word associations remembered before compared to after sleep [(active = 3.1 ± 3.0 SD more associations) (sham = 3.8 ± 3.1 SD more associations)]. Finger tapping improved, (non-significantly) following active stimulation [(3.6 ± 2.7 SD correctly typed sequences) compared to sham stimulation (2.3 ± 2.2 SD correctly typed sequences)]. In this study, we failed to find improvements in declarative or performance memory and could not replicate an earlier study using nearly identical settings. Specifically we failed to find a beneficial effect on either overnight declarative or non-declarative memory consolidation via square-wave oscillating tDCS intervention applied bi-frontally during early NREM sleep. It is unclear if the morphology of the tDCS pulse is critical in any memory related improvements.

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