Online repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation during working memory in younger and older adults: A randomized within-subject comparison.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Working memory is the ability to perform mental operations on information that is stored in a flexible, limited capacity buffer. The ability to manipulate information in working memory is central to many aspects of human cognition, but also declines with healthy aging. Given the profound importance of such working memory manipulation abilities, there is a concerted effort towards developing approaches to improve them. The current study tested the capacity to enhance working memory manipulation with online repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in healthy young and older adults. Online high frequency (5Hz) repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to test the hypothesis that active repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation would lead to significant improvements in memory recall accuracy compared to sham stimulation, and that these effects would be most pronounced in working memory manipulation conditions with the highest cognitive demand in both young and older adults. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied while participants were performing a delayed response alphabetization task with three individually-titrated levels of difficulty. The left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was identified by combining electric field modeling to individualized functional magnetic resonance imaging activation maps and was targeted during the experiment using stereotactic neuronavigation with real-time robotic guidance, allowing optimal coil placement during the stimulation. As no accuracy differences were found between young and older adults, the results from both groups were collapsed. Subsequent analyses revealed that active stimulation significantly increased accuracy relative to sham stimulation, but only for the hardest condition. These results point towards further investigation of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for memory enhancement focusing on high difficulty conditions as those most likely to exhibit benefits.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Beynel, L; Davis, SW; Crowell, CA; Hilbig, SA; Lim, W; Nguyen, D; Palmer, H; Brito, A; Peterchev, AV; Luber, B; Lisanby, SH; Cabeza, R; Appelbaum, LG

Published Date

  • 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 3

Start / End Page

  • e0213707 -

PubMed ID

  • 30901345

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6430375

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0213707


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States