Using noninvasive brain stimulation to accelerate learning and enhance human performance

Hum Factors. 2014 Aug;56(5):816-24. doi: 10.1177/0018720814538815.


Objective: The authors evaluate the effectiveness of noninvasive brain stimulation, in particular, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), for accelerating learning and enhancing human performance on complex tasks.

Background: Developing expertise in complex tasks typically requires extended training and practice. Neuroergonomics research has suggested new methods that can accelerate learning and boost human performance. TDCS is one such method. It involves the application of a weak DC current to the scalp and has the potential to modulate brain networks underlying the performance of a perceptual, cognitive, or motor task.

Method: Examples of tDCS studies of declarative and procedural learning are discussed. This mini-review focuses on studies employing complex simulations representative of surveillance and security operations, intelligence analysis, and procedural learning in complex monitoring.

Results: The evidence supports the view that tDCS can accelerate learning and enhance performance in a range of complex cognitive tasks. Initial findings also suggest that such benefits can be retained over time, but additional research is needed on training schedules and transfer of training.

Conclusion: Noninvasive brain stimulation can accelerate skill acquisition in complex tasks and may provide an alternative or addition to other training methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Learning* / physiology
  • Learning* / radiation effects
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Psychomotor Performance* / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance* / radiation effects