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Stress Relief and Memory Training Center

Preservation of Learning Abilities in People with Dementia and Depression with Different Level of Cognitive Impairment

Valentin Bragin, M.D., PhD, Gjumrakch Aliev, M.D., PhD, Marina Chemodanova, PhD, MEd, Aysik Vaysman, M.D., PhD, Ilya Bragin, BS, Pavlo Chernyavskyy, BS, Eugene Grinayt, MS. Stress Relief and Memory Training Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA and Electron Microscopy Research Center, San Antonio, TX, USA. Poster presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, Vienna, Austria. 2009, July 11-16

Background: Recent findings indicate that improving mitochondrial function has positive effects on the learning capacities in animal studies. Data regarding learning potential in dementia are very limited and inconsistent. We hypothesize that people with dementia have preserved learning capacities.

Objective: To investigate the learning potential for different targets (flowers, numbers and words) in people with dementia and depression.

Methods:  22 medically ill patients (13 women, 9 men) with different levels of dementia with depression (age – 79.32 ± 7.15; education – 13.41 ± 3.43) were evaluated by the MMSE and a continuous visual learning task. The task was designed to register the patient’s immediate and learning responses and 5 minute recall. Different visual stimuli (flowers, double digit numbers and words – 6 targets) were presented on the screen for several trials. Performance (number of memorized targets) and intrusions (numbers of mistakes) were assessed on every trial and in 5 minutes recall.

Results:  MMSE scores were 25.22 ± 4.80, ranging from 13 to 30. Performance on immediate recall and numbers of learning trials to achieve maximum results were highest for words (4.48 ±1.60 and 2.43 ± 1.63 accordingly), followed by flowers and numbers. Each person had his own learning  profile. There were two observed learning patterns:  a) gradual increase in numbers of correct answers with every consequent trial (good attention) and b) fluctuation in numbers of right answers (poor attention).  Performance on 5 minute recall was highest for flowers (5.45 ± 0.91), followed by numbers (4.95 ± 1.40) and then words (4.67 ± 1.77).

Conclusion: We have demonstrated that people with different levels of cognitive impairment have preserved learning abilities. The results of this paradigm will be useful for future investigations of learning potentials in dementia.

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