Benefits of training working memory in amnestic mild cognitive impairment: specific and transfer effects

Barbara Carretti, Erika Borella, Silvia Fostinelli, Michela Zavagnin
International Psychogeriatrics 2013, 25 (4): 617-26

BACKGROUND: A growing number of studies are attempting to understand how effective cognitive interventions may be for patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), particularly in relation to their memory problems.

METHODS: The present study aimed to explore the benefits of a working memory (WM) training program in aMCI patients. Patients (N = 20) were randomly assigned to two training programs: the experimental group practiced with a verbal WM task, while the active control group conducted educational activities on memory.

RESULTS: Results showed that the aMCI patients completing the WM training obtained specific gains in the task trained with some transfer effects on other WM measures (visuospatial WM) and on processes involved in or related to WM, e.g. fluid intelligence (the Cattell test) and long-term memory. This was not the case for the aMCI control group, who experienced only a very limited improvement.

CONCLUSION: This pilot study suggests that WM training could be a valuable method for improving cognitive performance in aMCI patients, possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

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