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Noninvasive brain stimulation methods, including high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) and theta burst stimulation (TBS) have emerged as novel tools to modulate and explore brain function. However, the relative efficacy of these newer stimulation approaches for modulating cognitive functioning remains unclear. This study investigated the cognitive effects of HD-tDCS, intermittent TBS (iTBS) and prolonged continuous TBS (ProcTBS) and explored the potential of these approaches for modulating hypothesized functions of the left posterior parietal cortex (PPC).
Twenty-two healthy volunteers attended four experimental sessions in a cross-over experimental design. In each session, participants either received HD-tDCS, iTBS, ProcTBS or sham, and completed cognitive tasks, including a divided attention task, a working memory maintenance task and an attention task (emotional Stroop test).
The results showed that compared to sham, HD-tDCS, iTBS and ProcTBS caused significantly faster response times on the emotional Stroop task. The effect size (Cohen’s d) was d = .32 for iTBS (p < .001), .21 for ProcTBS (p = .01) and .15 for HD-tDCS (p = .044). However, for the performance on the divided attention and working memory maintenance tasks, no significant effect of stimulation was found.
The results suggest that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques, including TBS, may have greater efficacy for modulating cognition compared with HD-tDCS, and extend existing knowledge about specific functions of the left PPC.
Reduction of the pulse width has been reported to improve ECT outcomes with unilateral ECT (similar efficacy, fewer cognitive side effects), but has been minimally studied for bitemporal ECT. The only study comparing brief and ultrabrief pulse bitemporal ECT found reduced efficacy for bitemporal ultrabrief compared to bitemporal brief pulse stimulation. This randomised controlled trial (RCT) aimed to test if ultrabrief pulse bitemporal ECT results in fewer cognitive side effects than brief pulse bitemporal ECT, when given at doses adjusted with the aim of achieving comparable efficacy.
Thirty-six participants were randomly assigned to receive ultrabrief (at 3 times seizure threshold) or brief (at 1.5 times seizure threshold) pulse bitemporal ECT given 3 times a week in a double-blind, controlled proof-of-concept trial. Blinded raters assessed mood and cognitive functioning over the ECT course.
Efficacy and cognitive outcomes did not differ significantly between the two treatment groups over the ECT course. The ultrabrief pulse group performed better on a test of visual memory assessed acutely after an ECT treatment.
This study suggests there may be a small cognitive advantage in giving bitemporal ECT with an ultrabrief pulse when dosage is increased to match the efficacy of brief pulse bitemporal ECT, but the study was underpowered to fully examine this issue.
Preliminary evidence suggests transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has antidepressant efficacy.
To further investigate the efficacy of tDCS in a double-blind, sham-controlled trial (registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov: NCT00763230).
Sixty-four participants with current depression received active or sham anodal tDCS to the left prefrontal cortex (2 mA, 15 sessions over 3 weeks), followed by a 3-week open-label active treatment phase. Mood and neuropsychological effects were assessed.
There was significantly greater improvement in mood after active than after sham treatment (P<0.05), although no difference in responder rates (13% in both groups). Attention and working memory improved after a single session of active but not sham tDCS (P<0.05). There was no decline in neuropsychological functioning after 3–6 weeks of active stimulation. One participant with bipolar disorder became hypomanic after active tDCS.
Findings confirm earlier reports of the antidepressant efficacy and safety of tDCS. Vigilance for mood switching is advised when administering tDCS to individuals with bipolar disorder.
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