Finding the Right Memory Strategy to Slow Cognitive Decline

Summary: A study compares two forms of cognitive training used to help people with mild cognitive impairment improve memory and learning.

Source: University of Michigan

What’s the best way to improve your memory as you age? Turns out it depends, suggests a new study. But your fourth-grade math teacher may have found something with this phrase to help you remember how to solve a complicated problem: Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally.

A new study by researchers from the University of Michigan and Penn State College of Medicine compared two approaches for people with an early form of memory loss.

Both are mnemonic strategy training, which aims to relate what someone is trying to remember to something else like a word, phrase, or song (like the mnemonic Dear Aunt Sally), and training to spaced retrieval, which gradually increases the time between attempts to memorize something.

People with mild cognitive impairment, which can, but not always, lead to a later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, were better able to recall information when using one of these cognitive training approaches. . However, data and brain scans that revealed which areas of the brain were most active showed that each activity worked differently.

“Our research shows that we can help people with mild cognitive impairment improve the amount of information they learn and remember; however, different approaches to cognitive training engage the brain in distinct ways,” said Benjamin Hampstead, Ph.D., lead and corresponding author. Hampstead is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

He directs the Cognition and Neuromodulation Based Interventions Research Program and directs the Clinical Nucleus and co-directs the Neuroimaging Nucleus at the federally funded Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

“The mnemonic strategy training increased activity in brain areas commonly affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which likely explains why this training approach helped participants remember more information for longer” , Hampstead said.

“In contrast, those who underwent repetition-based training showed reduced brain activity, suggesting that they were processing information more efficiently.”

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People with mild cognitive impairment, which can, but not always, lead to a later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, were better able to recall information when using one of these cognitive training approaches. . Image is in public domain

Hampstead and his team worked with Krish Sathian, MBBS, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at Penn State and director of the Penn State Neuroscience Institute. Sathian noted that cognitive training approaches are likely to become increasingly important in synergy with new pharmacological treatments on the horizon for people with neurodegenerative disorders.

Going forward, Hampstead said researchers and clinicians can use this kind of information to help identify which non-pharmacological treatments are best suited for their patients with memory disorders.

Other authors include Anthony Y. Stringer, Ph.D. of Emory University and UM team members Alexandru D. Iordan, Ph.D. and Rob Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D.

About this memory and cognition research news

Author: Kara Gavin
Source: University of Michigan
Contact: Kara Gavin – University of Michigan
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Access closed.
“Towards a Rational Use of Cognitive Training in People with Mild Cognitive Impairment” by Benjamin Hampstead et al. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

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Towards a rational use of cognitive training in people with mild cognitive impairment

The term cognitive training includes a range of techniques that may address cognitive impairment caused by injury and neurological disease.

Our central premise is that these techniques differ in their mechanisms of action and therefore engage distinct brain regions (or neural networks).

We support this premise using data from a single-blind, randomized controlled trial in which patients with mild cognitive impairment were randomized to either mnemonic strategy training (MST) or spaced retrieval training (SRT) at the as they learned ecologically relevant object-location associations.

Both training approaches were very effective in the short term, but MST demonstrated a clear benefit after days or weeks. MST also increased activation and functional connectivity between the frontal, temporal, and parietal regions as well as the hippocampus.

In contrast, patterns of reduced activation and functional connectivity were evident after SRT. These results support the rational development of cognitive training techniques.

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