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Open Access Study protocol

The Memory Aid study: protocol for a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of computer-based working memory training in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

Marianne M Flak12*, Susanne S Hernes1, Jon Skranes23 and Gro CC Løhaugen23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Geriatric Unity, The Memory Clinic, Sørlandet Hospital, Arendal, Norway

2 Department of Pediatrics, Sørlandet Hospital, Arendal, Norway

3 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Children’s and Women’s Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

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Trials 2014, 15:156  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-156

Published: 3 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition characterized by memory problems that are more severe than the normal cognitive changes due to aging, but less severe than dementia. Reduced working memory (WM) is regarded as one of the core symptoms of an MCI condition. Recent studies have indicated that WM can be improved through computer-based training. The objective of this study is to evaluate if WM training is effective in improving cognitive function in elderly patients with MCI, and if cognitive training induces structural changes in the white and gray matter of the brain, as assessed by structural MRI.

Methods/Designs

The proposed study is a blinded, randomized, controlled trail that will include 90 elderly patients diagnosed with MCI at a hospital-based memory clinic. The participants will be randomized to either a training program or a placebo version of the program. The intervention is computerized WM training performed for 45 minutes of 25 sessions over 5 weeks. The placebo version is identical in duration but is non-adaptive in the difficulty level of the tasks. Neuropsychological assessment and structural MRI will be performed before and 1 month after training, and at a 5-month folllow-up.

Discussion

If computer-based training results in positive changes to memory functions in patients with MCI this may represent a new, cost-effective treatment for MCI. Secondly, evaluation of any training-induced structural changes to gray or white matter will improve the current understanding of the mechanisms behind effective cognitive interventions in patients with MCI.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01991405. November 18, 2013.