BRAINSTORMING: A study protocol for a randomised double-blind clinical trial to assess the impact of concurrent brain stimulation (tDCS) and working memory training on cognitive performance in Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Rong Hu
  • Gail Eskes
  • Michelle Read
  • Chris Griffiths

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • South China University of Technology
  • Dalhousie University
  • Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust


BACKGROUND: Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) admissions have an incidence of 385 per 100,000 of the population in the UK, and as brain injury often involves the frontal networks, cognitive domains affected are likely to be executive control, working memory, and problem-solving deficits, resulting in difficulty with everyday activities. The above observations make working memory, and related constructs such as attention and executive functioning attractive targets for neurorehabilitation. We propose a combined home-based rehabilitation protocol involving the concurrent administration of a working memory training program (adaptive N-back task) with non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to promote long-lasting modification of brain areas underlying working memory function.

METHOD: Patients with a working memory deficit will be recruited and assigned to two age-matched groups receiving working memory training for 2 weeks: an active group, receiving tDCS (2 mA for 20 min), and a control group, receiving sham stimulation. After the end of the first 2 weeks, both groups will continue the working memory training for three more weeks. Outcome measures will be recorded at timepoints throughout the intervention, including baseline, after the 2 weeks of stimulation, at the end of the working memory training regimen and 1 month after the completion of the training.

DISCUSSION: The aim of the study is to assess if non-invasive tDCS stimulation has an impact on performance and benefits of a working memory training regimen. Specifically, we will examine the impact of brain stimulation on training gains, if changes in gains would last, and whether changes in training performance transfer to other cognitive domains. Furthermore, we will explore whether training improvements impact on everyday life activities and how the home-based training regimen is received by participants, with the view to develop an effective home healthcare tool that could enhance working memory and daily functioning.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study was registered with NCT04010149 on July 8, 2019.


Original languageEnglish
Article number125
JournalBMC psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2020


  • Adult, Aged, Brain/physiology, Brain Injuries/physiopathology, Cognition/physiology, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Short-Term/physiology, Middle Aged, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation