Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Synchronizing rhythmic brain circuits improves working memory in older adults.

Our short term memory depends on theta rhythms (~6-10 Hz) and gamma rhythms (~25-100 Hz) in different parts of our brain being coupled and in synchrony with each other. They become increasingly uncoordinated as we age, resulting in observable cognitive decline by the time we reach 60 or 70 years of age. Reinhart and Nguyen compare the working memory of subjects in their 20s with 60-70 year olds, and find that 25 min of noninvasive stimulation, frequency-tuned to individual brain network dynamics, dramatically improves the working memory of the older group, making it similar to the younger group.
Understanding normal brain aging and developing methods to maintain or improve cognition in older adults are major goals of fundamental and translational neuroscience. Here we show a core feature of cognitive decline—working-memory deficits—emerges from disconnected local and long-range circuits instantiated by theta–gamma phase–amplitude coupling in temporal cortex and theta phase synchronization across frontotemporal cortex. We developed a noninvasive stimulation procedure for modulating long-range theta interactions in adults aged 60–76 years. After 25 min of stimulation, frequency-tuned to individual brain network dynamics, we observed a preferential increase in neural synchronization patterns and the return of sender–receiver relationships of information flow within and between frontotemporal regions. The end result was rapid improvement in working-memory performance that outlasted a 50 min post-stimulation period. The results provide insight into the physiological foundations of age-related cognitive impairment and contribute to groundwork for future non-pharmacological interventions targeting aspects of cognitive decline.

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