Background Huntington’s disease (HD) is associated with a variety of cognitive deficits, with prominent deficits in working memory (WM). These deficits can occur in the early stage of the disease and undermine quality of life. Currently, there are no established treatments for these symptoms.
Aims The feasibility of implementing a home-based, computerised WM training program was examined in HD patients who reported WM difficulties in daily life. A secondary aim was to assess the patient experience with this training program.
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, to evaluate changes in performance on criterion WM measures (Digit Span and Spatial Span) and near-transfer WM measures (Symbol Span and Auditory WM). Post-training interviews about patient experience were thematically analysed using NVivo software.
Results Seven of nine (77%) patients completed the program within the recommended timeframe (M = 36 ± 12.35 days). Compared to baseline scores, patients showed significant improvement on both measures of verbal WM (Digit Span, p = 0.047; Auditory WM, p = 0.041). Each of these patients reported that they found training helpful, and almost all (n = 6) felt that their memory improved.
Conclusions This pilot study provides support for feasibility of computerised WM training in early-stage patients with HD. Results suggest that HD patients can improve WM with intensive training, though a full-scale intervention project is needed to understand the reliability of changes over time.
- computerised cognitive training