Transcranial direct current stimulation versus intermittent theta-burst stimulation for the improvement of working memory performance

Lais B Razza, Matthias S Luethi, Tamires Zanão, Stefanie De Smet, Carlos Buchpiguel, Geraldo Busatto, Juliana Pereira, Izio Klein, Mitchel Kappen, Marina Moreno, Chris Baeken, Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt, André R Brunoni

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Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques have been increasingly used over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to enhance working memory (WM) performance. Notwithstanding, NIBS protocols have shown either small or inconclusive cognitive effects on healthy and neuropsychiatric samples. Therefore, we assessed working memory performance and safety of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS), and both therapies combined vs placebo over the neuronavigated left DLPFC of healthy participants. Twenty-four subjects were included to randomly undergo four sessions of NIBS, once a week: tDCS alone, iTBS alone, combined protocol and placebo. The 2-back task and an adverse effect scale were applied after each NIBS session. Results revealed a significantly faster response for iTBS (b= -21.49, p= 0.04), but not for tDCS and for the interaction tDCS vs. iTBS (b= 13.67, p= 0.26 and b= 40.5, p= 0.20, respectively). No changes were observed for accuracy and no serious adverse effects were found among protocols. Although tolerable, an absence of synergistic effects for the combined protocol was seen. Nonetheless, future trials accessing different outcomes for the combined protocols, as well as studies investigating iTBS over the left DLPFC for cognition and exploring sources of variability for tDCS are encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100334
JournalInternational journal of clinical and health psychology : IJCHP
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors.


  • Combined interventions
  • Non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Synergistic effects
  • Working memory


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