Behavioral and neurophysiological effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in fronto-temporal dementia

Roberta Ferrucci, Simona Mrakic-Sposta, Simona Gardini, Fabiana Ruggiero, Maurizio Vergari, Francesca Mameli, Andrea Arighi, Marco Spallazzi, Federica Barocco, Giovanni Michelini, Anna Margherita Pietroboni, Laura Ghezzi, Giorgio Giulio Fumagalli, Giordano D'Urso, Paolo Caffarra, Elio Scarpini, Alberto Priori, Sara Marceglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) is the clinical-diagnostic term that is now preferred to describe patients with a range of progressive dementia syndromes associated with focal atrophy of the frontal and anterior temporal cerebral regions. Currently available FTD medications have been used to control behavioral symptoms, even though they are ineffective in some patients, expensive and may induce adverse effects. Alternative therapeutic approaches are worth pursuing, such as non-invasive brain stimulation with transcranial direct current (tDCS). tDCS has been demonstrated to influence neuronal excitability and reported to enhance cognitive performance in dementia. The aim of this study was to investigate whether applying Anodal tDCS (2 mA intensity, 20 min) over the fronto-temporal cortex bilaterally in five consecutive daily sessions would improve cognitive performance and behavior symptoms in FTD patients, also considering the neuromodulatory effect of stimulation on cortical electrical activity measured through EEG. We recruited 13 patients with FTD and we tested the effect of Anodal and Sham (i.e., placebo) tDCS in two separate experimental sessions. In each session, at baseline (T0), after 5 consecutive days (T1), after 1 week (T2), and after 4 weeks (T3) from the end of the treatment, cognitive and behavioral functions were tested. EEG (21 electrodes, 10–20 international system) was recorded for 5 min with eyes closed at the same time points in nine patients. The present findings showed that Anodal tDCS applied bilaterally over the fronto-temporal cortex significantly improves (1) neuropsychiatric symptoms (as measured by the neuropsychiatric inventory, NPI) in FTD patients immediately after tDCS treatment, and (2) simple visual reaction times (sVRTs) up to 1 month after tDCS treatment. These cognitive improvements significantly correlate with the time course of the slow EEG oscillations (delta and theta bands) measured at the same time points. Even though further studies on larger samples are needed, these findings support the effectiveness of Anodal tDCS over the fronto-temporal regions in FTD on attentional processes that might be correlated to a normalized EEG low-frequency pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article number235
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Oct 29 2018


  • EEG
  • Fronto-temporal dementia
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neuropsychiatric inventory
  • Reaction time
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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