Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, investigated the effects of combining two non-pharmacological interventions for adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): eight semi-weekly sessions of Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a cognitive training program shown to improve reasoning and ability to extract the bottom-line message from complex information; and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) over the left frontal region, an area associated with cognitive control and memory recovery success in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Twenty-two (22) participants with a diagnosis of MCI—individuals who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease—were randomized into one of two groups: tDCS + SMART, versus sham + SMART. All participants completed a baseline cognitive assessment along with resting state cerebral blood flow, followed by post-SMART training and 3-month post-training assessments.
All the participants in both groups showed immediate cognitive improvements in higher-order cognitive functions of executive functions (conceptual reasoning and fluency), sustained gains in objective episodic memory and subjective memory statistfaction. The sham + SMART group showed significant immediate gains after training on two measures of executive function—inhibition and innovation, and episodic memory. Counter to expectations, these gains were blocked in the active tDCS + SMART group. Thus, the hypothesis that neuroplasticity would be enhanced by brain stimulation to elevate training effects was not supported. The results are published in Frontiers in Neuroscience-Neural Technology (April 2019).
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