The Potential of Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation to Alleviate Dual-Task Gait Costs in Older Adults: Insights from a Double-Blinded Pilot Study

Rony M. Sayig-Keren, Moria Dagan, Pablo Cornejo Thumm, Marina Brozgol, Eran Gazit, Brad Manor, Jeffrey M. Hausdorff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The performance of an attention-demanding task while walking, i.e., dual-tasking, leads to dual-task costs (e.g., reduced gait speed) in older adults. Previous studies have shown that dual-task costs in gait are associated with future falls and cognitive decline. According to the communication through coherence hypothesis, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) might help alleviate this problem. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of a single session of theta-tACS targeting the left fronto-parietal network (L-FPN) on dual-task walking and cognitive function compared to sham stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) targeting the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a node within the L-FPN. Methods: Twenty older adults completed a four-visit, double-blinded, within-subject, cross-over study in which usual-walking, dual-task walking, and cognitive function were evaluated before and immediately after 20 min of tACS, tDCS, or sham (order randomized) stimulation. Dual-task costs to gait speed (primary outcome) and other measures were analyzed. Results: The dual-task cost to gait speed tended to be lower (i.e., better) after tACS (p = 0.067, Cohen's d = 0.433∼small); tDCS significantly reduced this dual-task cost (p = 0.012, Cohen's d = 0.618∼medium), and sham stimulation had no effect (p = 0.467). tACS significantly reduced the dual-task cost to step length (p = 0.037, Cohen's d = 0.502∼medium); a trend was seen after tDCS (p = 0.069, Cohen's d = 0.443∼small). No statistical differences were found for other measures of gait or cognitive function. Conclusions: The positive effects of tACS on dual-task gait speed and step length were roughly similar to those seen with tDCS. These results suggest that tACS affects the fronto-parietal network and, similar to tDCS, tACS may improve dual-tasking. Nonetheless, to achieve larger benefits and differentiate the effects of tACS and tDCS on brain function and dual-task walking in older adults, other stimulation montages and protocols should be tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-518
Number of pages6
JournalGerontology
Volume69
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
National Institutes of HealthR21 AG064575, R01 AG059089

    Keywords

    • Cognitive
    • Dual task
    • Gait
    • Noninvasive brain stimulation

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