Mnemonic training strategies can help patients with mild cognitive impairment, as well as healthy individuals, improve brain activity and memory, new research demonstrates.
According to researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the memory-building strategies aided patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and re-engaged the hippocampus regions of their brains, the area critical to forming new memories. Results from the study are published in the journal Hippocampus.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide evidence that mnemonic strategies (MS) training may also facilitate hippocampal functioning and result in a partially restorative pattern of activity in MCI patients,” Benjamin M. Hampstead, PhD, researcher and assistant professor in the department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
The study included 34 participants: 16 healthy elderly controls and 18 patients diagnosed with MCI. The MS training involved recalling the location of household objects such as keys and utensils. Participants learned to focus on a feature in the room near the object, learned why the object was there and learned to create a mental picture to link the information. During multiple sessions participants viewed an object and then its location in a computer-simulated room. Later, they had to select the object’s location from three choices.
Using functional MRI, Hampstead and colleagues confirmed MCI participants showed less hippocampal activity than healthy people and had more trouble remembering the objects’ locations. Following MS training, researchers reported that both the control and MCI groups benefitted more from memory strategies than exposure to the objects alone. Further, patients with MCI showed increased hippocampal functionality.
Disclosures: Dr. Hampstead and his colleagues report the study was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the National Institute on Aging.