May 15, 2019

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Memory in Younger, Older Adults

Magnetic stimulation of the brain improves working memory, offering a new potential avenue of therapy for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study published in PloS One.

In the study, healthy younger and older adult participants who received repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) performed better on a memory task than during an rTMS-like placebo.

“This study relies on highly individualised parameters, from the selection of the stimulated target, based on fMRI activation, to the selection of the difficulty, titrated according to subjects’ performance,” said Lysianne Beynel, PhD, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. “Now that we have shown that these specific parameters can improve performance in healthy subjects, we will be able to extend it to populations with memory deficits.”

A total of 29 young adults and 18 older adults completed the study, which involved trying to remember and then reproduce a series of letters in alphabetical order.

The authors applied either online high-frequency (5Hz) rTMS, or a placebo-like sham over the left prefrontal cortex. Participants of all ages who received rTMS performed better than those who received the rTMS-like placebo.

“Interestingly, we only saw this effect during when participants were trying their hardest, suggesting a real use-it-or-lose it principle at work here,” said Simon W. Davis, PhD, Duke University. “Contrary to much of what we hear, aging brains have a remarkable capability to remember past events and to use that information in a flexible manner. The brain stimulation applied in our study shows that older adults benefited just as much as the young.”

Reference: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213707

SOURCE: Duke University School of Medicine
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