Study explores best cognitive training techniques to improve memory

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Researchers from the University of Michigan and Penn State College of Medicine? compared two forms of cognitive exercises for those in the early stages of memory loss in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal, Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia, was led by Benjamin Hampstead, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The study focused on two cognitive exercises: mnemonic strategy training (MST) and spaced retrieval training (SRT). According to the authors, with MST a patient is instructed to connect whatever they need to remember to something else like a familiar word, phrase, or song. For SRT, a patient is asked to remember something and tested over progressively longer periods of time.

Researchers conducted a randomized control study in which patients with mind cognitive impairment were asked to practice either MST or SRT. Scientists then followed their progress. The participants’ brains were scanned before and after.

The study found that both strategies were effective in improving memory, however the techniques had differing effects on the brain.

“Mnemonic strategy training increased activity in brain areas often affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which likely explains why this training approach helped participants remember more information and for longer,” Hampstead said in a statement. “In contrast, those completing rehearsal-based training showed reduced brain activity, which suggests they were processing the information more efficiently.”

According to the study’s researchers these results suggest that different forms of memory training can be used to target specific parts of the brain.

“Our research shows that we can help people with mild cognitive impairment improve the amount of information they learn and remember; however, different cognitive training approaches engage the brain in distinct ways,” said Hampstead.

According to researchers these findings, and related future studies can be used to provide clinicians with more effective nonpharmacological methods to improve patients’ memories.