Little is known about the brain changes that mediate improvement following cognitive remediation. We used neuropsychological tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging to study working memory and recollection memory in patients with mood disorders, before (PRE) and after (POST) 10 weeks of cognitive remediation. Thirty-eight patients completed a recollection memory task at PRE (28 had complete PRE and POST scans) and 35 patients completed an n-back working memory task at PRE (23 had complete PRE and POST scans). We also compared patients at PRE with two groups of healthy controls subjects (n=18 for the recollection memory task and n=15 for the working memory task). At PRE, compared to controls, patients had (i) poorer backward digit span scores, (ii) lower accuracy scores and weaker frontopolar activation during the 2-back condition, and (iii) poorer recollection scores and altered medial temporal activation on the recollection memory task. Following remediation, patients (i) improved on the backward digit span, (ii) activation increased in lateral and medial prefrontal, superior temporal, and lateral parietal regions in the 2-back condition, and (iii) recollection-related activation increased in the bilateral hippocampus. Improvements in 2-back accuracy correlated with activation increases in lateral and medial prefrontal and lateral parietal regions, and improved recollection scores correlated with activation increases in the left hippocampus. PRE-POST improvements on the backward digit span correlated with PRE-POST improvements in 2-back task accuracy; however, there was no direct association between improvement on the backward digit span following training and change in functional activation. These findings suggest that cognitive remediation may lead to behavioural improvements on tests of working memory. The relation between behavioural change and changes in functional activation following remediation requires further study.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Major depressive disorder; Recollection memory; Working memory.
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