Bi-Temporal Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation during Slow-Wave Sleep Boosts Slow-Wave Density but Not Memory Consolidation

Ruch, Simon; Fehér, Kristoffer; Homan, Stephanie; Morishima, Yosuke; Mueller, Sarah Maria; Mueller, Stefanie Verena; Dierks, Thomas; Grieder, Matthias (2021). Bi-Temporal Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation during Slow-Wave Sleep Boosts Slow-Wave Density but Not Memory Consolidation. Brain Sciences, 11(4), pp. 1-21. MDPI 10.3390/brainsci11040410

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Slow-wave sleep (SWS) has been shown to promote long-term consolidation of episodic memo-ries in hippocampo–neocortical networks. Previous research has aimed to modulate cortical sleep slow-waves and spindles to facilitate episodic memory consolidation. Here, we instead aimed to modulate hippocampal activity during slow-wave sleep using transcranial direct cur-rent stimulation in 18 healthy humans. A pair-associate episodic memory task was used to eval-uate sleep-dependent memory consolidation with face–occupation stimuli. Pre- and post-nap re-trieval was assessed as a measure of memory performance. Anodal stimulation with 2 mA was applied bilaterally over the lateral temporal cortex, motivated by its particularly extensive con-nections to the hippocampus. The participants slept in a magnetic resonance (MR)-simulator during the recordings to test the feasibility for a future MR-study. We used a sham-controlled, double-blind, counterbalanced randomized, within-subject crossover design. We show that stimulation vs. sham significantly increased slow-wave density and the temporal coupling of fast spindles and slow-waves. While retention of episodic memories across sleep was not affect-ed across the entire sample of participants, it was impaired in participants with below-average pre-sleep memory performance. Hence, bi-temporal anodal direct current stimulation applied during sleep enhanced sleep parameters that are typically involved in memory consolidation, but it failed to improve memory consolidation and even tended to impair consolidation in poor learners. These findings suggest that artificially enhancing memory-related sleep parameters to improve memory consolidation can actually backfire in those participants who are in most need of memory improvement.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Weitere Forschungsgruppen

UniBE Contributor:

Ruch, Simon, Fehér, Daniel Kristoffer, Homan, Stephanie Andrea, Morishima, Yosuke, Müller, Sarah Maria, Müller, Stefanie Verena, Dierks, Thomas, Grieder, Matthias


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health






[UNSPECIFIED] Universität Bern




Matthias Grieder

Date Deposited:

12 Apr 2021 16:20

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:34

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

memory consolidation; hippocampus; sleep; slow wave; transcranial direct current stimulation; temporal lobe




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