Stimulating aged brains with transcranial direct current stimulation: Opportunities and challenges.
Ageing involves significant neurophysiological changes that are both systematic while at the same time exhibiting divergent trajectories across individuals. These changes underlie cognitive impairments in elderly while also affecting the response of aged brains to interventions like transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). While the cognitive benefits of tDCS are more variable in elderly, older adults also respond differently to stimulation protocols compared to young adults. The age-related neurophysiological changes influencing the responsiveness to tDCS remain to be addressed in-depth. We review and discuss the premise that, in comparison to the better calibrated brain networks present in young adults, aged systems perform further away from a homoeostatic set-point. We argue that this age-related neurophysiological deviation from the homoeostatic optimum extends the leeway for tDCS to modulate the aged brain. This promotes the potency of immediate tDCS effects to induce directional plastic changes towards the homoeostatic equilibrium despite the impaired plasticity induction in elderly. We also consider how age-related neurophysiological changes pose specific challenges for tDCS that necessitate proper adaptations of stimulation protocols. Appreciating the distinctive properties of aged brains and the accompanying adjustment of stimulation parameters can increase the potency and reliability of tDCS as a treatment avenue in older adults.
PMID: 32972813 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]
Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2020 Sep 06;:111179
Authors: Habich A, Fehér KD, Antonenko D, Boraxbekk CJ, Flöel A, Nissen C, Siebner HR, Thielscher A, Klöppel S