Using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to promote long-term foreign language vocabulary learning

Academic Article


  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was used to improve foreign-langue learning while using mental imagery. Participants underwent two sessions of 1 mA, 1.5 mA, or sham stimulation prior to learning Swahili-English word pairs two consecutive days. During learning, participants were encouraged to create a mental image of the associated English word. Twenty-four hours after learning and one week later, participants received a cued recall test. A linear dose–response effect of stimulation was found across both tests that occurred long after the immediate effects of stimulation. Follow-up comparisons revealed that only the 1.5 mA condition differed from the sham group. Exploratory moderating effects revealed interactions with sleep quality and handedness. Those with poorer sleep and who were left-handed showed greater recall after 1.5 mA of stimulation than those with better sleep and right-handers. A follow-up behavioral study probing strategy usage indicated that mental imagery strategy use did not strongly impact learning but point to other possible mechanisms including the importance of attending to multimodal perceptual details and memory consolidation. This preliminary evidence supports the role of the DLPFC or connected regions in foreign language vocabulary learning and verbal memory encoding.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bolling AJ; King VL; Enam T; McDonough IM
  • Volume

  • 154