Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may be a viable tool to improve motor and cognitive function in advanced age. However, although a number of studies have demonstrated improved cognitive performance in older adults, other studies have failed to show restorative effects. The neural effects of beneficial stimulation response in both age groups is lacking. In the current study, tDCS was administered during simultaneous fMRI in 42 healthy young and older participants. Semantic word generation and motor speech baseline tasks were used to investigate behavioral and neural effects of uni- and bihemispheric motor cortex tDCS in a three-way, crossover, sham tDCS controlled design. Independent components analysis assessed differences in task-related activity between the two age groups and tDCS effects at the network level. We also explored whether laterality of language network organization was effected by tDCS. Behaviorally, both active tDCS conditions significantly improved semantic word retrieval performance in young and older adults and were comparable between groups and stimulation conditions. Network-level tDCS effects were identified in the ventral and dorsal anterior cingulate networks in the combined sample during semantic fluency and motor speech tasks. In addition, a shift toward enhanced left laterality was identified in the older adults for both active stimulation conditions. Thus, tDCS results in common network-level modulations and behavioral improvements for both age groups, with an additional effect of increasing left laterality in older adults.