Alpha Oscillations Are Causally Linked to Inhibitory Abilities in Ageing

Borghini, Giulia; Candini, Michela; Filannino, Cristina; Hussain, Masud; Walsh, Vincent; Romei, Vincenzo; Zokaei, Nahid and Cappelletti, Marinella. 2018. Alpha Oscillations Are Causally Linked to Inhibitory Abilities in Ageing. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38(18), pp. 4418-4429. ISSN 0270-6474 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Aging 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, whereas younger participants’ general performance was comparatively higher, as expected. Inhibitory abilities have been linked to alpha brain oscillations but it is yet unknown whether in aging these oscillations (also typically impoverished) and inhibitory abilities are causally linked. To probe this possible causal link in aging, 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.

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ageing, alpha oscillation, inhibition, tACS, working memory

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13 February 2018Accepted
2 May 2018Published
3 April 2018Published Online

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2018 13:53

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2021 13:20

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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