A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has found that people with Alzheimer’s have the capacity to “learn” from their surroundings and can use their environment as an example in their therapy.
The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, is based on a study of 1,500 patients with Alzheimer`s disease who were treated in different settings over two years.
They were then given a training course designed to help them become more adaptive and self-aware.
The study showed that those with Alzheimer´s disease can use environment as a guide for how to learn.
The results show that they can become more adept at learning new tasks and that this can help them to improve their cognition, says study author Andrew Stoner, a PhD student in psychiatry and neurobiology at Penn.
Stoner and his colleagues also showed that they could use a training program to help the patients regain their ability to learn from their environments, as well as their ability in other ways.
“This is a great first step towards improving cognitive functioning of Alzheimer’s patients,” Stoner says.
“We have shown that this learning ability can be used to improve people with mild to moderate Alzheimer` s disease.”
The study, which involved the use of a video game, was conducted in the laboratory of Stoner and colleagues at the Penn Center for Brain Health.
It was led by Michael J. DePinho, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Penn and a member of the Penn Neurosciences Institute.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and the Carnegie Mellon University Brain Research Institute.
The team also included research assistants R.C. Moulton, PhD; and Jennifer M. Miller, PhD.