Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more pronounced decline of dementia.  It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than typical age-related changes.  

Although not all people with MCI go on to develop dementia and a few eventually get better, mild cognitive impairment does signify an increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Research into effective treatment options for people with MCI seeks to delay, postpone or have the potential to provide an important focus for people who suffer with memory issues.

BrainHealth researchers are studying the effects of MCI by testing people with this early memory disorder to evaluate how their brains differ from those of healthy older adults.

A recent Center for BrainHealth study shows that Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a Center-developed training program, had a positive impact on areas of frontal lobe function as well as memory on people with memory complaints and MCI. Based on more than 30 years of neuroscience research, the SMART program focuses on the brain’s intricate frontal lobe networks that govern planning, judgment, decision-making, problem-solving, emotional regulation and other cognitive functions. This pilot study demonstrated the potential benefits of reasoning training as a way to strengthen cognitive domains.  

In addition to replicating the findings of the aforementioned gist training study, researchers will investigate the effects of neurostimulation in combination with SMART to see if it will enhance brain change.  For the study, researchers will utilize transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a form of neurostimulation that involves safely stimulating a specific part of the brain with a low voltage electrical pulse in order to prime the brain for learning. BrainHealth researchers will assess if adding a session of tDCS immediately prior to a SMART session can further enhance the gains found in the pilot study.

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