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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00863

Using high frequency transcranial random noise stimulation to modulate face memory performance in younger and older adults: Lessons learnt from mixed findings

  • 1King's College London, United Kingdom
  • 2Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
  • 3University of Minnesota Twin Cities, United States
  • 4Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
  • 5University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 6Dartmouth College, United States

High-frequency transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) has been shown to improve a range of cognitive and perceptual abilities. Here we sought to examine the effects of a single session of tRNS targeted at the ventrolateral prefrontal cortices (VLPFC) on face memory in younger and older adults. To do so, we conducted three experiments. In Experiment 1, we found that younger adults receiving active tRNS outperformed those receiving sham stimulation (i.e. using a between-participant factor for stimulation condition; Experiment 1). This effect was not observed for object memory (car memory) in younger adults (Experiment 2), indicating that the effect is not a general memory effect. In Experiment 3, we sought to replicate the effects of Experiment 1 using a different design (within-participant factor of stimulation – active or sham tRNS to the same individual) and to extend the study by including older adult participants. In contrast to Experiment 1, we found that active tRNS relative to sham tRNS reduced face memory performance in both younger and older adults. We also found that the degree of decline in performance in the active tRNS relative to sham tRNS condition was predicted by baseline ability, with higher performing participants showing the largest decreases in performance. Overall, the results indicate that tRNS to the VLPFC modulates face memory, but that there may be performance and protocol specific moderators of this effect. We discuss these findings in the context of the broader literature showing the importance of individual variation in the outcome of non-invasive brain stimulation intervention approaches. We conclude that while tRNS may have potential as an intervention approach, generalising from single experiment studies to wide application is risky and caution should be adopted in interpreting findings.

Keywords: transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS), transcranial electric stimulation, face memory, face recognition, Ageing, Aging

Received: 01 Sep 2018; Accepted: 05 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Gregor Thut, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Zaira Cattaneo, Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca, Italy
Philip Tseng, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan  

Copyright: © 2018 Penton, Bate, Dalrymple, Tamm, Reed, Godovich, Kelly, Duchaine and Banissy. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Michael J. Banissy, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, SE14 6NW, London, United Kingdom, m.banissy@gold.ac.uk