Combined tDCS neurostimulation and cognitive training found to improve working memory among older adults–especially those with lower starting capacity

Giv­ing mem­o­ry a lift: Can games and brain stim­u­la­tion do it? (Med­ical­New­sTo­day):

A person’s work­ing mem­o­ry may decline with age or if they have demen­tia, Parkinson’s dis­ease, or have had a stroke. When this occurs, the loss can affect their day-to-day qual­i­ty of life, turn­ing even sim­ple tasks into often-demor­al­iz­ing challenges.

Work­ing mem­o­ry is the brain’s men­tal scratch­pad,” she not­ed, “and it can be used to keep in mind, and work with, a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent types of infor­ma­tion … Your work­ing mem­o­ry abil­i­ty is impor­tant for all kinds of activ­i­ties,” said (Dal­housie Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor) Gail Eskes, “such as read­ing a news­pa­per, doing math at a restau­rant to fig­ure out a tip, mak­ing deci­sions, and prob­lem-solv­ing” … Researchers from Dal­housie, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tren­to in Italy, and Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­si­ty in the Unit­ed King­dom con­tributed to the study, which found that cog­ni­tive train­ing along­side tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion sig­nif­i­cant­ly strength­ens work­ing memory.

The study authors refer to their sys­tem as COGNISANT, which stands for “cog­ni­tive needs and skills training.”

The study’s senior author is assis­tant pro­fes­sor Dr. Sara Assec­on­di of the Cen­ter for Mind/Brain Sci­ences at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tren­to. She explained how the two aspects of COGNISANT work togeth­er: “In our study, work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing and brain stim­u­la­tion tar­get the same brain area — the right dor­so­lat­er­al pre­frontal cor­tex — an area asso­ci­at­ed with pro­cess­ing spa­tial information.”

The Study:

Old­er adults with low­er work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty ben­e­fit from tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion when com­bined with work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing: A pre­lim­i­nary study (Fron­tiers in Aging Neuroscience).

  • Abstract: Aging is a very diverse process: suc­cess­ful agers retain most cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing, while oth­ers expe­ri­ence mild to severe cog­ni­tive decline. This decline may even­tu­al­ly neg­a­tive­ly impact one’s every­day activ­i­ties. There­fore, sci­en­tists must devel­op approach­es to coun­ter­act or, at least, slow down the neg­a­tive change in cog­ni­tive per­for­mance of aging indi­vid­u­als. Com­bin­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing and tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) is a promis­ing approach that cap­i­tal­izes on the plas­tic­i­ty of brain net­works. How­ev­er, the effi­ca­cy of com­bined meth­ods depends on indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as the cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al state of the indi­vid­ual enter­ing the train­ing pro­gram. In this report, we explored the effec­tive­ness of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, com­bined with tDCS to the right dor­so­lat­er­al pre­frontal cor­tex (DLPFC), to manip­u­late work­ing mem­o­ry per­for­mance in old­er indi­vid­u­als. We hypoth­e­sized that indi­vid­u­als with low­er work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty would ben­e­fit the most from the com­bined reg­i­men. Thir­ty old­er adults took part in a 5‑day com­bined reg­i­men. Before and after the train­ing, we eval­u­at­ed par­tic­i­pants’ work­ing mem­o­ry per­for­mance with five work­ing mem­o­ry tasks. We found that indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics influ­enced the out­come of com­bined cog­ni­tive train­ing and tDCS reg­i­mens, with the inter­ven­tion selec­tive­ly ben­e­fit­ing old-old adults with low­er work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty. Future work should con­sid­er devel­op­ing indi­vid­u­al­ized treat­ments by con­sid­er­ing indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in cog­ni­tive profiles.

The Study in Context:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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