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BEEM Study

Research Background

Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can often experience changes in their emotions and behavior that co-occur with cognitive and functional decline. These changes can worsen an individual’s cognitive capacity and risk of progression to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), as well as subject both the individual and the individual’s family members to additional distress. Emotional and behavioral symptoms can vary within and across individuals; however, our understanding of the shared neural mechanisms that may underly these symptoms is quite limited.

Our lab has previously found that emotional and behavioral symptoms are related to a shared network involving a subset of frontal, temporal, and subcortical brain regions in MCI and AD patients. Additionally, the correlations between these regions’ activation over time (known as functional connectivity) varied for different symptoms. One of our aims going forward is to further explore these differences in functional connectivity and better understand how they can be modulated as a form of cognitive intervention to help improve the emotional and behavioral health of individuals who may be at risk for developing AD.​

Based on our preliminary work, we are conducting a study to further explore the mechanisms underlying the shared brain network using a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Extending our previous findings will help us determine the effect of tDCS on the brain network we have identified previously, as well as the relationship between this network and participants’ partner-rated symptoms, so that we may identify therapeutic targets in the brain that respond well to interventions, such as tDCS.  


Regions in the shared neural network whose functional connectivity is related to emotional and behavioral symptoms common in individuals with MCI and AD. Figure from Wang X et al, 2019. Identify a shared neural circuit linking multiple neuropsychiatric symptoms with Alzheimer’s pathology. Brain Imaging Behav 13(1):53-64. DOI: 10.1007/s11682-017-9767-y

What is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)?

The intervention involves a brain stimulation (or neuromodulation) technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We use tDCS to temporarily stimulate brain regions of interest, enabling us to study the brain non-invasively and painlessly. The tDCS device supplies a constant, low electrical current between two electrodes (sponges lightly soaked in saline water) that rest on top of the head over the brain region of interest.


Any tDCS-induced changes in brain activity are temporary and will return to baseline after the session ends. tDCS is an attractive technique because of its ease of application, affordability, and minimal side effects. 

Study Aims

  • Determine the effect of tDCS on a brain network linked to emotional regulation

  • Determine the relationship between this brain network and an individual's changes in emotional regulation.

Study Involvement

BEEM Study is ​recruiting older adults ages 60-89 years old and a potential study partner. A study partner is an individual who knows the prospective participant and is contact with them at least once a week. BEEM study is an 8-week long study that involves

  • 3 cognitive assessments that test memory and cognitive function

  • 3 fMRI brain scans

  • 1 blood draw

  • 1-month intervention

​Participants will be paid up to $170 for completion of all study measures. Study partners will also be paid up to $60 for completion of all study measures.

COVID Procedures: We follow all NY state and University of Rochester Medical Center guidelines to ensure your and our staff's safety. A mask is required at all times when inside our facilities. We will conduct screening questionnaires and perform temperature checks upon your arrival and escort to our lab. All staff are screened daily and wear personal protective equipment (i.e., gloves, mask, face shield) during study visits. The number of staff and visitors to our lab is limited to those essential for in-person activities, and all interview rooms and equipment are disinfected regularly, as well as before and after each participant's appointment.  

Interested in

participating in a study

or want more information

about our research?

Contact us!

Contact the CogT Lab

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