Objective Several studies showed that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) enhances cognition in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), however, whether tDCS leads to additional gains when combined with cognitive training remains unclear. This study aims to compare the effects of a concurrent tDCS-cognitive training intervention with either tDCS or cognitive training alone on a group of patients with MCI. Methods The study was a 3-parallel-arm study. The intervention consisted of 20 daily sessions of 20 minutes each. Patients (n = 62) received anodal tDCS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, cognitive training on 5 cognitive domains (orientation, attention, memory, language, and executive functions), or both. To examine intervention gains, we examined global cognitive functioning, verbal short-term memory, visuospatial memory, and verbal fluency pre- and post-intervention. Results All outcome measures improved after the intervention in the 3 groups. The improvement in global cognitive functioning and verbal fluency was significantly larger in patients who received the combined intervention. Instead, the intervention gain in verbal short-term memory and visuospatial memory was similar across the 3 groups. Discussion tDCS, regardless of the practicalities, could be an efficacious treatment in combination with cognitive training given the increased effectiveness of the combined treatment. Conclusions Future studies will need to consider individual differences at baseline, including genetic factors and anatomical differences that impact the electric field generated by tDCS and should also consider the feasibility of at-home treatments consisting of the application of tDCS with cognitive training.
- Noninvasive brain stimulation
- cognitive enhancement
- mild cognitive impairment