Can tDCS enhance music?

A recent clinical trial called “Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with listening to preferred music on memory in older adults” concluded that “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.” While not the exact point of this trial, the details of the paper made us think if tDCS could enhance the quality of pleasure of listening to music?

It’s certainly possible to combine tDCS with listening to music. Most tDCS head-gear won’t block the ear, so one can listen to speakers or earbuds during tDCS. One company even made headphones part of the tDCS head-gear used in sports.

A search for human trials combing “tDCS” and “music” gives over 45 published papers.  And there have been many separate papers published on tDCS and flow-state, creativity, focus, and other mental states that will change how we appreciate music.

There have also been many papers on tDCS in musicians. For example, in a 2021 paper on “The Role of the Mirror System in Influencing Musicians’ Evaluation of Musical Creativity: A tDCS Study” the authors concluded that tDCS had complicated effects on how people feel about music. 

How we feel about music is entirely in our brain. And tDCS can change how our brain processes sound as well as how we feel in general. So it seems an open and compelling question, can tDCS enhance music?


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