Transcranial direct current stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia: A quantitative review of cognitive outcomes

Joshua E. Mervis, Riley J. Capizzi, Elias Boroda, Angus MacDonald

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Cognitive deficits are a core and disabling feature of psychotic disorders, specifically schizophrenia. Current treatments for impaired cognition in schizophrenia remain insufficient. Recent research suggests transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex can potentiate cognitive improvements in healthy individuals and those with psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia. However, this burgeoning literature has not been quantitatively evaluated. Through a literature search and quantitative review, we identified 194 papers on tDCS, psychosis, and cognition. Selection criteria included pre/post design and sham control to achieve specific sham-adjusted effect sizes. The 6 retained studies all address schizophrenia populations and include single and repeated stimulation, as well as within and between subject designs. Small positive effects were found for anodal stimulation on behavioral measures of attention andworking memory, with tentative findings for cognitive ability and memory. Cathodal stimulation yielded a small positive effect on behaviorally measured cognitive ability. Neurophysiological measures of attention showed a small to medium down-modulation effect for anodal stimulation. Implications of these findings and guidelines for future research are discussed. As revealed by this report, due to the paucity of data available, much remains unknown regarding the clinical efficacy of tDCS in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by a Graduate Summer Research Fellowship fromthe Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota and a Sambol Family Foundation Grant to JM.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Mervis, Capizzi, Boroda and MacDonald.


  • Cognition
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Quantitative review
  • Schizophrenia
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation


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