Promising Role of Neuromodulation in Predicting the Progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia

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The differential diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) is not always straightforward, and the rate of progression of MCI to dementia is not negligible. Thus, there is a need for para-clinical approaches that can improve the differential diagnosis and identify patients that are at risk of progression. There is a growing interest, at present, in the role of the deterioration of brain oscillations as a predictor of MCI-to-AD conversion. For this reason, we experimentally modulated γ-band oscillations (GBO) in a sample of MCI and AD patients and an age-matched healthy elderly group, using a transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) protocol that was applied to different cortical sites. We correlated the after-effects of tACS on the GBO and the neuropsychological data, in an attempt to differentiate MCI from AD patients and identify, among the MCI patients, those that could be at potential risk of MCI-to-dementia conversion. MCI patients showed a partial GBO increase and improvement in some neuropsychological tests whereas AD individuals did not show significant tACS after-effects. Notably, some MCI subjects lacked significant neuropsychological and electrophysiological after-effects, similar to AD individuals. In a two-year follow-up, such MCI individuals had converted into AD. Therefore, our data suggest that tACS may support the clinical differential diagnosis of MCI and AD and identify MCI patients who could be at risk of developing dementia. This prediction index may help the clinician to adopt a better prevention/follow-up strategy in such a disabling neurodegenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1388
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Gamma-band oscillations
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Transcranial alternating current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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