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Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genoa, Italy
Brain activity pattern changes after adaptive working memory training in multiple sclerosis.
Cognitive impairment and related abnormal brain activity are common in people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS). Adaptive training based on working memory (WM) has been shown to ameliorate cognitive symptoms, although the effects at a neural level are unclear. The aim of this study was to expand the existing research on the effects of an adaptive WM rehabilitative intervention on brain functional activity in PwMS. A sample of eighteen PwMS performed an 8-week home-based cognitive rehabilitation treatment based on adaptive WM training. PwMS were assessed before and after treatment using a validated neuropsychological battery and undergoing an fMRI session while carrying out a cognitive task (i.e., Paced Visual Serial Addition Test - PVSAT). fMRI activations were compared to the activation pattern elicited by eighteen matched healthy subjects performing the same task. At baseline, we found abnormal brain activity during PVSAT in PwMS when compared to healthy subjects, with a pattern including several bilateral activation clusters. Following rehabilitation, PwMS improved cognitive performance, as evaluated by the neuropsychological battery, and showed a different activation map with clusters mainly located in the right cerebellum and in the left hemisphere. The only significant cluster in the right hemisphere was located in the inferior parietal lobule, and the BOLD signal extracted in this area significantly correlated with cognitive performance both before and after the treatment. We suggest that WM training can improve the cognitive performance and reduce the abnormal activation of PwMS by partially maintaining or even restoring brain cognitive function.
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