Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Brain stimulation targeting shared networks to improve physical and cognitive functions in older adults

On-Yee Amy Lo, PhD; Brad Manor, PhD | Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School; Michael Esterman, PhD | VA Boston Healthcare System; Giulio Ruffini, PhD | Neuroelectrics
Competition Sponsor
: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2023

Promotion of physical and cognitive function is critical to maximizing healthspan. Mounting evidence indicates that physical and cognitive functions are closely dependent upon one another; and most of the time, theses physical and cognitive functions are linked to the brain functions. Emerging work revealed that the ability to remain stable while walking and the ability to remain focused while engaging in a goal-oriented task, along with numerous age-related disorders, are linked to a unique antagonistic relationship between two brain networks, named the dorsal attention network (DAN) and the default network (DN). The purposes of this project were to develop a personalized non-invasive brain stimulation aimed to optimize the inter-network connectivity and communication, and to examine the effects of this novel, network-based brain stimulation on resting-state functional connectivity, walking and attention performances. This proof-of-concept project is expected to demonstrate direct, cause-effect evidence that the nature of between-network connectivity can be modulated. By linking the changes in the brain to changes in physical and cognitive behaviors, we are hopeful that this work will improve our understanding of the cortical regulations of gait and attention and provide initial, immediate evidence that this characteristic of functional connectivity may serve as a target for fall prevention, rehabilitation, and other behaviors and diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) that are known to be dependent upon the modularity of the DAN and DN. If proven successful, this approach through modulating other brain network communication promises to have a tremendous application to numerous age-related syndromes and diseases.

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