Functional MRI shows cognitive rehab aiding mildly impaired elderly minds

The cognitive therapy called Attention Process Training-II (APT-II) provides worthwhile benefits to elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who have cerebral small vessel disease and are therefore at heightened risk for dementia.

In the Italian study behind the finding, the effects of the neuropsychological intervention showed up as improvements in focused attention and working memory, as well as increased brain activity observable on functional MRI.

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published the research online Aug. 30.

Leonardo Pantoni, MD, PhD, of the University of Florence and colleagues randomized 43 MCI patients with cerebral small vessel disease into either APT-II (“treated”) or standard care (“untreated”) groups.

The patients were imaged with resting-state fMRI, and evaluated for function and quality of life, first at baseline and then at six and 12 months post-intervention.

The researchers observed no significant difference between the treated and untreated patients on measures of functional status and quality of life.

However, an auditory-verbal test checking immediate recall brought back a significant improvement in the treated group only, and the same held for a visual search test.

Meanwhile, the resting-state fMRI showed significantly greater synchronization of activity in cerebellar areas between baseline and follow-up in the treated group.

In the untreated group, such syncing did not occur.

Journal publisher IOS Press has posted the study in full for free.