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Neuroenhancement of the aging brain: Restoring skill acquisition in old subjects

Authors

  • Máximo Zimerman MD,

    1. Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Marie Nitsch MD,

    1. Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Pascal Giraux MD,

    1. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Laboratory of Exercise Physiology, Bellevue Hospital, University Hospital Center of Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne, France
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  • Christian Gerloff MD,

    1. Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Leonardo G. Cohen MD,

    1. Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Neurorehabilitation Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
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  • Friedhelm C. Hummel MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
    • Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation (BINS) Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20246 Hamburg, Germany
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Abstract

Objective:

Decline in cognitive functions, including impaired acquisition of novel skills, is a feature of older age that impacts activities of daily living, independence, and integration in modern societies.

Methods:

We tested whether the acquisition of a complex motor skill can be enhanced in old subjects by the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the motor cortex.

Results:

The main finding was that old participants experienced substantial improvements when training was applied concurrent with tDCS, with effects lasting for at least 24 hours.

Interpretation:

These results suggest noninvasive brain stimulation as a promising and safe tool to potentially assist functional independence of aged individuals in daily life. ANN NEUROL 2013

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