Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ability to sustain attention is integral to healthy cognition in aging. The right PFC (rPFC) is critical for maintaining high levels of attentional focus. Whether plasticity of this region can be harnessed to support sustained attention in older adults is unknown. We used transcranial direct current stimulation to increase cortical excitability of the rPFC, while monitoring behavioral and electrophysiological markers of sustained attention in older adults with suboptimal sustained attention capacity. During rPFC transcranial direct current stimulation, fewer lapses of attention occurred and electroencephalography signals of frontal engagement and early visual attention were enhanced. To further verify these results, we repeated the experiment in an independent cohort of cognitively typical older adults using a different sustained attention paradigm. Again, prefrontal stimulation was associated with fewer attentional lapses. These experiments suggest the rPFC can be manipulated in later years to increase top–down modulation over early sensory processing and improve sustained attention performance. This holds valuable information for the development of neurorehabilitation protocols to ameliorate age-related deficits in this capacity.