Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with listening to preferred music on memory in older adults

Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 16;11(1):12638. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-91977-8.


Listening to autobiographically-salient music (i.e., music evoking personal memories from the past), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have each been suggested to temporarily improve older adults' subsequent performance on memory tasks. Limited research has investigated the effects of combining both tDCS and music listening together on cognition. The present study examined whether anodal tDCS stimulation over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (2 mA, 20 min) with concurrent listening to autobiographically-salient music amplified subsequent changes in working memory and recognition memory in older adults than either tDCS or music listening alone. In a randomized sham-controlled crossover study, 14 healthy older adults (64-81 years) participated in three neurostimulation conditions: tDCS with music listening (tDCS + Music), tDCS in silence (tDCS-only), or sham-tDCS with music listening (Sham + Music), each separated by at least a week. Working memory was assessed pre- and post-stimulation using a digit span task, and recognition memory was assessed post-stimulation using an auditory word recognition task (WRT) during which electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded. Performance on the backwards digit span showed improvement in tDCS + Music, but not in tDCS-only or Sham + Music conditions. Although no differences in behavioural performance were observed in the auditory WRT, changes in neural correlates underlying recognition memory were observed following tDCS + Music compared to Sham + Music. Findings suggest listening to autobiographically-salient music may amplify the effects of tDCS for working memory, and highlight the potential utility of neurostimulation combined with personalized music to improve cognitive performance in the aging population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*