Abstract

A number of studies have shown that modulating cortical activity by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) affects performances of both healthy and brain-damaged subjects. In this study, we investigated the potential of tDCS to enhance associative verbal learning in 10 healthy individuals and to improve word retrieval deficits in three patients with stroke-induced aphasia. In healthy individuals, tDCS (20 min, 1 mA) was applied over Wernicke's area (position CP5 of the International 10–20 EEG System) while they learned 20 new “words” (legal nonwords arbitrarily assigned to 20 different pictures). The healthy subjects participated in a randomized counterbalanced double-blind procedure in which they were subjected to one session of anodic tDCS over left Wernicke's area, one sham session over this location and one session of anodic tDCS stimulating the right occipito-parietal area. Each experimental session was performed during a different week (over three consecutive weeks) with 6 days of intersession interval. Over 2 weeks, three aphasic subjects participated in a randomized double-blind experiment involving intensive language training for their anomic difficulties in two tDCS conditions. Each subject participated in five consecutive daily sessions of anodic tDCS (20 min, 1 mA) and sham stimulation over Wernicke's area while they performed a picture-naming task. By the end of each week, anodic tDCS had significantly improved their accuracy on the picture-naming task. Both normal subjects and aphasic patients also had shorter naming latencies during anodic tDCS than during sham condition. At two follow-ups (1 and 3 weeks after the end of treatment), performed only in two aphasic subjects, response accuracy and reaction times were still significantly better in the anodic than in the sham condition, suggesting a long-term effect on recovery of their anomic disturbances.

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