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Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2009;27(5):473-91. doi: 10.3233/RNN-2009-0494.

Can we change brain functioning with cognition-focused interventions in Alzheimer's disease? The role of functional neuroimaging.

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School of Psychology, Bangor University, UK.



This review considers the application of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify treatment effects and brain plasticity in cognition-focused interventions aimed at people with Alzheimer's disease (AD). At present there is little evidence available that bears directly on this question. Associative memory function is affected in the early stages of AD and also deteriorates disproportionately in comparison to other types of memory in healthy ageing.


We review paradigms from the literature on face-name learning in fMRI in three groups (AD, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy ageing) with the aim of developing a paradigm to measure treatment effects and functional plasticity following cognitive intervention.


Previous studies have commonly selected participants with high levels of education, and have generally used challenging tasks, with considerable variations in level of task performance across studies. The findings of the review indicate that there is a need a simple face-name learning paradigm that can be used with people with AD, and which can be applied either as a single assessment tool to compare various subject groups or as an outcome tool to assess functional changes following a period of cognitive intervention.


We make recommendations for such a paradigm and discuss pilot data showing the successful application of our paradigm in an individual with MCI.

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