Brain Stimulation Helps Younger, Not Older, Adults’ Memory

Summary: Contrary to existing thought, researchers report transcranial direct current stimulation is not as effective at improving memory in older people as it is in younger adults.

Source: University of Chicago at Illinois.

We’ve all asked ourselves these types of questions: Where did I leave my keys? What was his name? Where did I park my car?

As people grow older their memory tend to get poorer, so finding ways to improve it is an important matter of investigation given the longer contemporary lifespans that people are experiencing.



Differential Age Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Associative Memory

Objectives Older adults experience associative memory deficits relative to younger adults (Old & Naveh-Benjamin, 2008). The aim of this study was to test the effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on face-name associative memory in older and younger adults.

Method Experimenters applied active (1.5 mA) or sham (0.1 mA) stimulation with the anode placed over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) during a face-name encoding task, and measured both cued recall and recognition performance. Participants completed memory tests immediately after stimulation and after a 24-h delay to examine both immediate and delayed stimulation effects on memory.

Results Results showed improved face-name associative memory performance for both recall and recognition measures, but only for younger adults, whereas there was no difference between active and sham stimulation for older adults. For younger adults, stimulation-induced memory improvements persisted after a 24-h delay, suggesting delayed effects of tDCS after a consolidation period.

Discussion Although effective in younger adults, these results suggest that older adults may be resistant to this intervention, at least under the stimulation parameters used in the current study. This finding is inconsistent with a commonly seen trend, where tDCS effects on cognition are larger in older than younger adults.

Source: Brian Flood – University of Chicago at Illinois Publisher: Organized by Image Source: image is credited to UIC. Original Research: Open access research in Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi:10.1093/geronb/gby003