Non-invasive brain stimulation of the right inferior frontal gyrus may improve attention in early Alzheimer's disease: a pilot study

J Neurol Sci. 2014 Nov 15;346(1-2):318-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2014.08.036. Epub 2014 Aug 29.


Introduction: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a noninvasive tool for modulating cortical activity.

Objectives: In this pilot study, we evaluated the effects of high frequency rTMS applied over the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) on cognitive functions in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or incipient dementia due to Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Methods: Ten patients (6 men; 4 women, mean age of 72 ± 8 years; MMSE 23 ± 3.56) were enrolled in a randomized, placebo-controlled study with a crossover design. All participants received 2 sessions of 10 Hz rTMS over the non-dominant right hemisphere in random order: IFG (active stimulation site) and vertex (control stimulation site). Intensities were adjusted to 90% of resting motor threshold. A total of 2250 pulses were applied in a session. The Trail Making Test (TMT), the Stroop test, and the complex visual scene encoding task (CVSET) were administered before and immediately after each session. The Wilcoxon paired test was used for data analysis.

Results: Stimulation applied over the IFG induced improvement in the TMT parts A (p = 0.037) and B (p = 0.049). No significant changes were found in the Stroop test or the CVSET after the IFG stimulation. We observed no significant cognitive aftereffects of rTMS applied over the vertex.

Conclusions: High frequency rTMS of the right IFG induced significant improvement of attention and psychomotor speed in patients with MCI/mild dementia due to AD. This pilot study is part of a more complex protocol and ongoing research.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Attention; Inferior frontal gyrus; MCI; Noninvasive brain stimulation; rTMS.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome