Despite recent evidence of the role of motivation in successful aging, causal evidence is nonexistent. By combining transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with neuroimaging, the TIME project aims to determine if modulation of brain function via stimulation leads to improved motivation and memory in normal elderly adults. This will provide a novel understanding of the neurobiology of motivation in the service of successful aging.

Recently, it was shown that a group of elderly, dubbed “superagers”, are indistinguishable from young adults in memory performance as well as the structure of certain brain regions. A key superaging region is mid-cingulate cortex (MCC), a brain structure associated with motivation and tenacity. The goal of the TIME project is to explore the contribution of motivation to memory performance by modulating MCC connectivity with non-invasive brain stimulation. This project combines prior research on superagers, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research on network function, and expertise in tDCS and modeling into two innovative studies to provide the first causal evidence that experimentally induced motivation can improve memory performance.

Study design
In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study, we will examine how memory performance can best be influenced with tDCS, additionally investigating the effects of stimulation on motivation and network connectivity. We will compare three novel tDCS protocols that were designed using computational models of brain stimulation. One of the protocols will be individually optimized for each participant. The study consists of five 20-minute stimulation sessions on consecutive days, with a baseline and follow-up on the first and last day consisting of memory tasks and an fMRI scan.

Interested in participating?
We are looking for healthy volunteers 65-80 years of age. Participants will spend ~13 hours in the lab across 6-7 visits and will be compensated for their time. All sessions take place during business hours on consecutive days in the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC) of Northeastern University, located at 805 Columbus Ave in Boston. If you are interested in participating, you can find more information here, and contact us at or 617-379-2452‬. As long as this website is active, we are still looking for participants.

Team: Sumientra Rampersad (PI Northeastern University), Alexandra Touroutoglou (PI MGH, Harvard Medical School), Dana Brooks (NU), Mark Eldaief (MGH), Lisa Feldman Barrett (NU)
Funding: NIH, National Institute on Aging: 1R21AG061743-01