The Human Evidence for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation as a Treatment for Neurodegeneration

One of the impressions received from the literature on electromagnetic stimulation of the brain is that results likely depend strongly on the fine details of the protocol. Current, frequency, duration, and any of the score of other parameters that can be adjusted via a different experimental setup. The use of direct current may have better results to date simply because there are fewer parameters to adjust. Nonetheless, "better results to date" is not a glowing recommendation. The bar as very low, and as pointed out here, the state of clinical trials seen as a whole isn't all that convincing. You might compare this with a similar review from last year.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD) are neurodegenerative disorders characterized by cognitive impairment and functional decline increasing with disease progression. Within non-pharmacological interventions, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) might represent a cost-effective rehabilitation strategy to implement cognitive abilities with positive implications for functional autonomy and quality-of-life of patients. Our systematic review aimed at evaluating the effects of tDCS upon cognition in people suffering from AD and PD. We searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Three review authors extracted data of interest, with neuropsychological tests or experimental cognitive tasks scores as outcome measures.

A total of 17 RCTs (10 trials for AD and 7 trials for PD) were included. Compared with sham stimulation, tDCS may improve global cognition and recognition memory in patients with AD and also some executive functions (i.e., divided attention, verbal fluency, and reduction of sensitivity to interference) in patients with PD. Criticism remains about benefits for the other investigated cognitive domains. Despite preliminary emerging evidences, larger RCTs with common neuropsychological measures and long-term follow-ups establishing longevity of the observed effects are necessary for future research in applied psychology field, alongside improved clinical guidelines on the neurodegenerative disorders pertaining electrodes montage, sessions number, duration and intensity of the stimulation, and cognitive battery to be used.


Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.