Assessment and comparison of improvement in working memory of elderly people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) after neuromodulation training

Institution: Bond University

Investigator(s): Nerida Saunders , Bulent Turman

Program: Cogmed QM

Background & Aim: Impairment in memory has long been accepted as a normal part of aging. However, persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) experience a greater level of memory loss than that normally experienced with aging, but without other signs of dementia. Recent studies indicate that people with MCI are more likely to develop dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. It is currently estimated that people with MCI have a 3 to 5 times increased risk of developing dementia than others their age.

The purpose of this pilot study is to assess and compare the improvement in working memory of elderly people with MCI by training them with different methods of neuromodulation. The aim of the project is to identify the improvement in the various aspects of working memory by intervention with a neuromodulation technique based on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and comparing the outcomes to an already validated intervention program, Cogmed Working Memory Training. The long term aim is to expand the study and compare the efficacy of four neuromodulation methods with the aid of funding obtained from external granting bodies.

Transcranial direct current stimulation delivers a weak current which can induce focal changes of cortical excitability; increase or decrease depending on the electrode polarity. It has been shown that left prefrontal anodal stimulation leads to an enhancement of working memory performance. However, the efficacy and outcomes of tDCS intervention have not been compared with Cogmed Working Memory Training, or with other methods, such as neurofeedback and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).

Population & Sample Size: N = 60 adults with MCI, ages 50 -70 years
• n = 15 adults in adaptive Cogmed training group
• n = 15 adults in non-adaptive (placebo) Cogmed training group
• n = 15 adults in adaptive Cogmed plus tDCS group
• n = 15 adults in non-adaptive (placebo) Cogmed plus tDCS group

Design: Randomized, placebo controlled, test-retest, 6 month follow up