Background: Little is known about the contribution of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the exploration of memory functions. The aim of the present study was to examine the behavioural effects of right or left-hemisphere frontal direct current delivery while committing to memory auditory presented nouns on short-term learning and subsequent long-term retrieval.
Methods: Twenty subjects, divided into two groups, performed an episodic verbal memory task during anodal, cathodal and sham current application on the right or left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).
Results: Our results imply that only cathodal tDCS elicits behavioural effects on verbal memory performance. In particular, left-sided application of cathodal tDCS impaired short-term verbal learning when compared to the baseline. We did not observe tDCS effects on long-term retrieval.
Conclusion: Our results imply that the left DLPFC is a crucial area involved in short-term verbal learning mechanisms. However, we found further support that direct current delivery with an intensity of 1.5 mA to the DLPFC during short-term learning does not disrupt longer lasting consolidation processes that are mainly known to be related to mesial temporal lobe areas. In the present study, we have shown that the tDCS technique has the potential to modulate short-term verbal learning mechanism.