Last updated on September 2018

Brain Stimulation and Enhancing Cognition in Older Adults


Brief description of study

The aim of the current research is to evaluate the efficacy of a combination of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve cognitive function in individuals with anxiety, depression and/or cognitive complaints.

Detailed Study Description

Neurocognitive difficulties are a common problem in the older adult population. Previous research has shown memory complaints are higher in older adults with depression or anxiety versus those without these diagnoses. This suggests that mood symptoms, or a diagnosis of a mood disorder, may represent significant predictors of cognitive impairment. If left untreated, symptoms of depression and memory complaints may lead to greater cognitive impairment, i.e. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and diagnosis of dementia. Therefore, early interventions are urgently needed to prevent decline in memory and cognitive function in individuals with MCI, depression and/or anxiety.

Ideal interventions for the older aged population would be those that are easily accessible and associated with minimal burden on family members, the healthcare system and the individuals themselves. Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) therapy and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) are two interventions that may be effective in targeting cognitive deficits in individuals with anxiety, depression and/ or cognitive complaints. MBSR has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and improve cognition and tDCS has been shown to improve cognition in the older aged population. The effectiveness of these two interventions combined to elicit changes in cognition has yet to be demonstrated. Therefore, the overall aim of the current research is to evaluate the efficacy of a combination of MBSR and tDCS to improve cognitive function in individuals with anxiety, depression and/or cognitive complaints.

This will be a randomized pilot study. Sixteen individuals (separated into 2 groups of 8) will be randomized to receive a combination of MBSR + active tDCS or MBSR + sham tDCS over 8 weeks. Participants will visit the Healthy Mind Lab once per week for in-class group sessions and will complete the intervention daily at home for the duration of the study. Participants will be aged 60 and older with cognitive complaints, with or without symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Participants will be trained to self-administer tDCS and given guidelines for the completion of daily MBSR activities at home. It is hypothesized that the combination of active tDCS+MBSR will enhance cognition compared to the combination of sham tDCS + MBSR.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03653351

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Hanadi Ajam Oughli, MD

Washington University in Saint Louis
Saint Louis, MO United States
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Eric Lenze

Washington University School of Medicine
Saint Louis, MO United States
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