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Feasibility of computerized working memory training in individuals with Huntington disease

Sadeghi M, Barlow-Krelina E, Gibbons C, Shaikh K, Fung WLA, Meschino W, Till C.


PLoS ONE



Abstract

Objectives

Huntington disease (HD) is associated with a variety of cognitive deficits, with prominent difficulties in working memory (WM). WM deficits are notably compromised in early-onset and prodromal HD patients. This study aimed to determine the feasibility of a computerized WM training program (Cogmed QM), novel to the HD population.


Methods

Nine patients, aged 26–62, with early stage HD underwent a 25-session (5 days/week for 5 weeks) WM training program (Cogmed QM). Training exercises involved the manipulation and storage of verbal and visuospatial information, with difficulty adapted as a function of individual performance. Neuropsychological testing was conducted before and after training, and performance on criterion WM measures (Digit Span and Spatial Span), near-transfer WM measures (Symbol Span and Auditory WM), and control measures were evaluated. Post-training interviews about patient experience were thematically analyzed using NVivo software.


Results

Seven of nine patients demonstrated adherence to the training and completed all sessions within the recommended timeframe of 5 weeks. All adherent patients showed improvement on the Cogmed tasks as defined by the Improvement Index (M = 22.17, SD = 8.84, range = 13–36). All adherent patients reported that they found training helpful (n = 7), and almost all felt that their memory improved (n = 6). Participants also expressed that the training was difficult, sometimes frustrating, and time consuming.


Conclusions

This pilot study provides support for feasibility of computerized WM training in early-stage patients with HD. Results suggest that HD patients perceive benefits of intensive WM training, though a full-scale and controlled intervention project is needed to understand the size of the effect and reliability of changes over time.



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