Impact of tDCS on working memory training is enhanced by strategy instructions in individuals with low working memory capacity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Rong Hu
  • Gail Eskes
  • Xiaoping Pan
  • Jin Zhou

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Dalhousie University
  • South China University of Technology


Interventions to improve working memory, e.g. by combining task rehearsal and non-invasive brain stimulation, are gaining popularity. Many factors, however, affect the outcome of these interventions. We hypothesize that working memory capacity at baseline predicts how an individual performs on a working memory task, by setting limits on the benefit derived from tDCS when combined with strategy instructions; specifically, we hypothesize that individuals with low capacity will benefit the most. Eighty-four participants underwent two sessions of an adaptive working memory task (n-back) on two consecutive days. Participants were split into four independent groups (SHAM vs ACTIVE stimulation and STRATEGY vs no STRATEGY instructions). For the purpose of analysis, individuals were divided based on their baseline working memory capacity. Results support our prediction that the combination of tDCS and strategy instructions is particularly beneficial in low capacity individuals. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of factors affecting the outcome of tDCS when used in conjunction with cognitive training to improve working memory. Moreover, our results have implications for training regimens, e.g., by designing interventions predicated on baseline cognitive abilities, or focusing on strategy development for specific attentional skills.


Original languageEnglish
Article number5531
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021