44th Annual Meeting INS Early Career Research Award Recipient
Boston, Massachusetts, USA, February 3-6, 2016
Memory deficits characterize Alzheimer’s disease and its clinical precursor amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). While a growing body of research furthers our understanding of the detection, characterization, and neuroanatomy of these memory deficits, the clinical translation of these findings has lagged. So, providers continue to be faced with the critical question of “What can I do about it?” Treatment is typically limited to a handful of medications that are, at best, marginally successful. This limitation has fostered a growing interest in non-pharmacologic treatment methods for minimizing learning and memory deficits, approaches that include cognitive training and cognitive rehabilitation. These techniques hold promise but remain poorly (or mis-)understood. In this session, I will first discuss several key methodological issues that plague cognitive training (CT) and cognitive rehabilitation (CR) in aMCI. I will then use a hierarchical model to evaluate whether common techniques used in CT and CR (e.g., spaced retrieval, mnemonic strategies) are beneficial for teaching specific content versus enhancing a general cognitive process. Finally, I will discuss the use of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation as another promising treatment approach that may enhance cognition directly or indirectly via interactions with cognitive intervention. Examples from ecologically-relevant memory paradigms that we have developed will be included throughout and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence of technique-dependent change will be used to discuss possible mechanisms of action. Patient-specific predictors, such as neuropsychological performances and brain volumes, will be integrated since these factors are vital for selecting techniques that are most beneficial at the individual patient level.