Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system that results in diffuse nerve damage and associated physical and cognitive impairments. Of the few comprehensive rehabilitation options that exist for populations with lower baseline cognitive functioning, those that have been successful at eliciting broad cognitive improvements have focused on a multimodal training approach, emphasizing complex cognitive processing that utilizes multiple domains simultaneously.
Method: The current study sought to determine the feasibility of an 8-week, hybrid-variable priority training (HVT) program, with a secondary aim to assess the success of this training paradigm at eliciting broad cognitive transfer effects. Capitalizing on the multimodal training modalities offered by the Space Fortress platform, we compared the HVT strategy-based intervention with a waitlist control group, to primarily assess skill acquisition and secondarily determine presence of cognitive transfer. Twenty-eight participants met inclusionary criteria for the study and were randomized to either training or waitlist control groups. To assess broad transfer effects, a battery of neuropsychological tests was administered pre- and post-intervention.
Results: The results indicated an overall improvement in skill acquisition and evidence for the feasibility of the intervention, but a lack of broad transfer to tasks of cognitive functioning. Participants in the training group, however, did show improvements on a measure of spatial short-term memory.
Conclusions: The current investigation provided support for the feasibility of a multimodal training approach, using the HVT strategy, within the MS population, but lacked broad transfer to multiple domains of cognitive functioning. Future improvements to obtain greater cognitive transfer efficacy would include a larger sample size, a longer course of training to evoke greater game score improvement, the inclusion of only cognitively impaired individuals, and integration of subjective measures of improvement in addition to objective tests of cognitive performance.
Keywords: Cognitive training; Multiple sclerosis; Randomized control trial; Skill acquisition; Space Fortress.