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Publication Detail
Alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities in ageing.
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Article
  • Authors:
    Borghini G, Candini M, Filannino C, Hussain M, Walsh V, Romei V, Zokaei N, Cappelletti M
  • Publication date:
    02/05/2018
  • Journal:
    The Journal of Neuroscience
  • Medium:
    Print-Electronic
  • Status:
    Published
  • Print ISSN:
    0270-6474
  • Language:
    eng
  • Addresses:
    Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Science, University College London, 2 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PF, UK.
Abstract
Ageing adults typically show reduced ability to ignore task-irrelevant information, an essential skill for optimal performance in many cognitive operations, including those requiring working memory (WM) resources. In a first experiment, young and elderly human participants of both genders performed an established WM paradigm probing inhibitory abilities by means of valid, invalid and neutral retro-cues. Elderly participants showed an overall cost, especially in performing invalid trials while youngers' general performance was comparatively higher, as expected.Inhibitory abilities have been linked to alpha brain oscillations but it is yet unknown whether in ageing these oscillations (also typically impoverished) and inhibitory abilities are causally-linked. To probe this possible causal link in ageing, we compared in a second experiment parietal alpha-transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) with either no stimulation (Sham) or with two control stimulation frequencies (theta- and gamma-tACS) in the elderly group while performing the same WM paradigm. Alpha- (but not theta- or gamma-) tACS selectively and significantly improved performance (now comparable to younger adults' performance in the first experiment), particularly for invalid cues where initially elderly showed the highest costs. Alpha oscillations are therefore causally linked to inhibitory abilities and frequency-tuned alpha-tACS interventions can selectively change these abilities in the elderly.SIGNIFICANT STATEMENTIgnoring task-irrelevant information, an ability associated to rhythmic brain activity in the alpha frequency band, is fundamental for optimal performance. Indeed, impoverished inhibitory abilities contribute to age-related decline in cognitive functions like working memory (WM), the capacity to briefly hold information in mind. Whether in ageing adults alpha oscillations and inhibitory abilities are causally linked is yet unknown.We experimentally manipulated frequency-tuned brain activity using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), combined with a retro-cue paradigm assessing WM and inhibition. We found that alpha-tACS induced a significant improvement in target responses and misbinding errors --two indexes of inhibition. We concluded that in ageing alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities, and that despite being impoverished, these abilities are still malleable.
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