Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques can significantly modulate cognitive functions in healthy subjects and patients with neuropsychiatric disorders. Recently, they have been applied in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here we review this emerging empirical corpus and discuss therapeutic effects of NIBS on several target functions (e.g., memory for face-name associations and non-verbal recognition, attention, psychomotor speed, everyday memory). Available studies have yielded mixed results, possibly due to differences among their tasks, designs, and samples, let alone the latter's small sizes. Thus, the impact of NIBS on cognitive performance in MCI and SCI remains to be determined. To foster progress in this direction, we outline methodological approaches that could improve the efficacy and specificity of NIBS in both conditions. Furthermore, we discuss the need for multicenter studies, accurate diagnosis, and longitudinal approaches combining NIBS with specific training regimes. These tenets could cement biomedical developments supporting new treatments for MCI and preventive therapies for AD.
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Non-invasive brain stimulation
- Transcranial direct current stimulation
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation