Modulating the brain at work using noninvasive transcranial stimulation

Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 2;59(1):129-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.075. Epub 2011 Aug 5.


This paper proposes a shift in the way researchers currently view and use transcranial brain stimulation technologies. From a neuroscience perspective, the standard application of both transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been mainly to explore the function of various brain regions. These tools allow for noninvasive and painless modulation of cortical tissue. In the course of studying the function of an area, many studies often report enhanced performance of a task during or following the stimulation. However, little follow-up research is typically done to further explore these effects. Approaching this growing pool of cognitive neuroscience literature with a neuroergonomics mindset (i.e., studying the brain at work), the possibilities of using these stimulation techniques for more than simply investigating the function of cortical areas become evident. In this paper, we discuss how cognitive neuroscience brain stimulation studies may complement neuroergonomics research on human performance optimization. And, through this discussion, we hope to shift the mindset of viewing transcranial stimulation techniques as solely investigatory basic science tools or possible clinical therapeutic devices to viewing transcranial stimulation techniques as interventional tools to be incorporated in applied science research and systems for the augmentation and enhancement of human operator performance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Humans
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*