It is not definitely known how direct-current stimulation causes its long-lasting effects. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the long time course of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) is because of the electrical field increasing the plasticity of the brain tissue. If this is the case, then we should see tDCS effects when humans need to encode information into long-term memory, but not at other times. We tested this hypothesis by delivering tDCS to the ventral visual stream of human participants during different tasks (i.e., recognition memory vs. visual search) and at different times during a memory task. We found that tDCS improved memory encoding, and the neural correlates thereof, but not retrieval. We also found that tDCS did not change the efficiency of information processing during visual search for a certain target object, a task that does not require the formation of new connections in the brain but instead relies on attention and object recognition mechanisms. Thus, our findings support the hypothesis that direct-current stimulation modulates brain activity by changing the underlying plasticity of the tissue.

You do not currently have access to this content.