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Alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities in ageing

Borghini, G; Candini, M; Filannino, C; Hussain, M; Walsh, V; Romei, V; Zokaei, N; (2018) Alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities in ageing. The Journal of Neuroscience , 38 (18) pp. 4418-4429. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1285-17.2018. Green open access

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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 STATEMENT: Ignoring 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 arecausallylinked 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.

Type: Article
Title: Alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities in ageing
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1285-17.2018
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1285-17.2018
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10046789
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