INTRODUCTION: Two methods of non-invasive brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), have demonstrable positive effects on cognition and can ameliorate neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression. Less is known about the efficacy of these approaches in common neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we evaluate the effects of TMS and tDCS upon cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms in the major dementias, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), as well as the potential pre-dementia states of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Parkinson's disease (PD).
METHODS: PubMed (until 7 February 2014) and PsycINFO (from 1967 to January Week 3 2014) databases were searched in a semi-systematic manner in order to identify relevant treatment studies. A total of 762 studies were identified and 32 studies (18 in the dementias and 14 in PD populations) were included.
RESULTS: No studies were identified in patients with PDD, FTD or VaD. Of the dementias, 13 studies were conducted in patients with AD, one in DLB, and four in MCI. A total of 16 of the 18 studies showed improvements in at least one cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcome measure. Cognitive or neuropsychiatric improvements were observed in 12 of the 14 studies conducted in patients with PD.
CONCLUSIONS: Both TMS and tDCS may have potential as interventions for the treatment of symptoms associated with dementia and PD. These results are promising; however, available data were limited, particularly within VaD, PDD and FTD, and major challenges exist in order to maximise the efficacy and clinical utility of both techniques. In particular, stimulation parameters vary considerably between studies and are likely to subsequently impact upon treatment efficacy.