Alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome is characterized by severe amnesia, also affecting spatial memory. To date, research on cognitive rehabilitation in these patients is scarce. Aim of the present study is to examine the efficacy of a mnemonic strategy training in patients with Korsakoff's syndrome. A randomized controlled exploratory study was performed. A convenience sample of 14 patients with amnesia due to alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome was included and randomized into a mnemonic strategy training group (n = 7) and a control group (n = 7). The training group completed a 3-day 45-60 min mnemonic strategy training that focused on specific strategies to encode and retrieve information about specific objects and their locations in virtual rooms, using labeling, verbal reasoning and mental imagery. The control group only received care as usual. Outcome measure was an object-location memory task consisting of novel, untrained object locations administered 1 day before the intervention, as well as 1 day and 1 week after completing the intervention. Patients in the intervention group were able to acquire and use the strategies, but no significant differences were found between the intervention group and the control group, and no significant change in performance was demonstrated compared to baseline 1 day and 1 week after the intervention. To conclude, the mnemonic strategy training in KS patients did not result in a better spatial memory performance 1 day or 1 week after training completion compared to participation in the regular non-cognitive treatment program that focused on occupational therapy, music therapy and exercise.
Keywords: Amnesia; Korsakoff’s syndrome; Mnemonic strategies; Neuropsychology; Spatial memory.