Non-invasive brain stimulation: Probing intracortical circuits and improving cognition in the aging brain

Joyce Gomes-Osman, Aprinda Indahlastari, Peter J. Fried, Danylo L.F. Cabral, Jordyn Rice, Nicole R. Nissim, Serkan Aksu, Molly E. McLaren, Adam J. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The impact of cognitive aging on brain function and structure is complex, and the relationship between aging-related structural changes and cognitive function are not fully understood. Physiological and pathological changes to the aging brain are highly variable, making it difficult to estimate a cognitive trajectory with which to monitor the conversion to cognitive decline. Beyond the information on the structural and functional consequences of cognitive aging gained from brain imaging and neuropsychological studies, non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can enable stimulation of the human brain in vivo, offering useful insights into the functional integrity of intracortical circuits using electrophysiology and neuromodulation. TMS measurements can be used to identify and monitor changes in cortical reactivity, the integrity of inhibitory and excitatory intracortical circuits, the mechanisms of long-term potentiation (LTP)/depression-like plasticity and central cholinergic function. Repetitive TMS and tDCS can be used to modulate neuronal excitability and enhance cortical function, and thus offer a potential means to slow or reverse cognitive decline. This review will summarize and critically appraise relevant literature regarding the use of TMS and tDCS to probe cortical areas affected by the aging brain, and as potential therapeutic tools to improve cognitive function in the aging population. Challenges arising from intra-individual differences, limited reproducibility, and methodological differences will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number177
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - Jun 8 2018


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive aging
  • Neuromodulation
  • Non-invasive brain stimulation
  • TDCS
  • TMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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