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Association of cognitive performance with hippocampal network integrity of healthy adults and its modulation through non-invasive brain stimulation

  • Brain aging even in healthy older adults is characterized by a decline in cognitive functions including memory, learning and attention. Among others, memory is one of the major cognitive functions affected by aging. Understanding the mechanisms underlying age-related memory decline may help pave the road for novel treatment strategies. Here, we tried to elucidate the neural correlates associated with memory decline using structural and functional neuroimaging and neuromodulation with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Over the course of three studies, we investigated 1) the influence of white matter integrity and grey matter volume on memory performance in healthy older adults, 2) the role of functional coupling within the memory network in predicting memory performance and the impact of tDCS in modulating retrieval performance in healthy older adults, 3) the effect of tDCS over the sensorimotor cortex on cognitive performance in young adults. MRI was used to study associations of cognitive performance with white matter integrity and grey matter volume, and examine their causal relationship in the course of aging. White matter integrity was assessed by acquiring diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and performing deterministic tractography based on constrained spherical deconvolution. Grey matter volume was estimated using fully automated segmentation. Both white matter integrity and grey matter volume were correlated with behavioral data of a verbal episodic memory task. Percentage of correct answers at retrieval was used to measure memory performance (Manuscript 1). In addition, anodal tDCS (atDCS) (1 mA, 20 min) was applied over CP5 (left temporoparietal cortex) to modulate memory formation in healthy older adults. Participants underwent resting-state fMRI before the stimulation. Functional connectivity analysis was performed to determine whether functional coupling within the memory network predicted initial memory performance, and to examine its association to tDCS-induced enhancement effect (Manuscript 2). Finally, atDCS (1 mA, 20 min) was applied over C3 (left sensorimotor cortex) to explore the effect of tDCS over the sensorimotor cortex on cognitive performance in young adults. During the stimulation, participants performed three tasks; gestural task, attentional load task and simple reaction time task (Manuscript 3). Results showed that volumes of the left dentate gyrus (DG) and tractography-based fractional anisotropy (FA) of individual fornix pathways were positively related to memory retrieval in older adults. Brain-behavior associations were observed for correct rejections rather than hits of memory performance, indicating specificity of memory network functioning for detecting false associations. Thus, the data suggested a particular role of neural integrity that promotes successful memory retrieval in older adults. Subsequent mediation analysis showed that left DG volume mediated the effect of fornix FA on memory performance (48%), corrected for age, revealing a crucial role of hippocampal pathway microstructure in modulating memory performance in older adults (Manuscript 1). tDCS results showed that atDCS led to better retrieval performance and increasing learning curves, indicating that brain stimulation can induce plasticity of episodic memory processes in older adults. Combining tDCS and fMRI, hippocampo-temporoparietal functional connectivity was positively associated with initial memory performance in healthy older adults and was positively correlated with the magnitude of individual tDCS-induced enhancement, suggesting that individual tDCS responsiveness may be determined by intrinsic network coupling (Manuscript 2). Finally, our findings suggested that atDCS over left sensorimotor cortex reduced reaction times in the gestural-verbal integration task, specifically for incongruent pairs of gestures and verbal expressions, indicating the role of sensorimotor cortex in gestural-verbal integration in young adults (Manuscript 3). The results of all three studies may help to elucidate age-related structural deterioration and functional coupling network underlying cognitive processes in healthy adults. Furthermore, these studies emphasized the importance of interventions like tDCS in modulating cognitive performance, specifically episodic verbal memory and gestural-verbal integration. By unveiling the specific role of brain structures and functional network coupling as well as the role of tDCS in modulating cognitive performance, our results contribute to a better understanding of brain-behavior associations, and may help to develop clinical interventional approaches, tailored for specific cognitive functions in aging.
  • Im gesunden Alterungsprozess nehmen kognitive Funktionen von älteren Erwachsenen ab. Diese beinhalten Gedächtnis-, Lern- und Aufmerksamkeitsfunktionen. Eine der am stärksten vom Alter betroffenen Funktionen ist das Gedächtnis. Das Verstehen der zugrundeliegenden Mechanismen von altersbedingtem Gedächtnisabbau ist essentiell, um neue Behandlungsstrategien entwickeln zu können. In der vorliegenden Studie haben wir die neuralen Korrelate von Gedächtnissabbau mit strukturellen und funktionellen bildgebenden Verfahren, sowie mittels Neuromodulation durch transkranielle Gleichstromstimulation (englisch: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)) untersucht.

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Metadaten
Author: Dayana HayekORCiD
URN:urn:nbn:de:gbv:9-opus-29229
Title Additional (German):Assoziation von kognitiver Leistungsfähigkeit mit hippocampaler Netzwerkintegrität und deren Modulation durch nichtinvasive Hirnstimulation bei gesunden Erwachsenen
Referee:Prof. Dr. Agnes Flöel, Prof. Dr. Alfons Hamm, Prof. Dr. Martin Lotze, Prof. Dr. Michael Nitsche
Advisor:Prof. Dr. Agnes Flöel, Prof. Dr. Alfons Hamm
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Year of Completion:2019
Date of first Publication:2019/08/20
Granting Institution:Universität Greifswald, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Date of final exam:2019/08/14
Release Date:2019/08/20
Tag:Brain stimulation, Hippocampal network integrity, Memory function
GND Keyword:Brain Stimulation, Cognition, Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Pagenumber:83
Faculties:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Psychologie
DDC class:100 Philosophie und Psychologie / 150 Psychologie