Authors: Noonan KA, Pryer LR, Jones RW, Burns AS, Lambon Ralph MA
Title: A direct comparison of errorless and errorful therapy for object name relearning in Alzheimer’s disease
Source: Neuropsychological Rehabilitation 2012 22(2): 215-234
Year: 2012
Research Design: Case Series

Developing rehabilitation techniques to combat cognitive decline is a key goal of healthcare strategies aimed at promoting increased longevity and better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD). In AD, problems with episodic memory and word-finding greatly affect everyday life and, as such, these symptoms provide a clear clinical target for therapeutic interventions. Errorless learning (EL) has been proposed as a particularly effective technique for relearning in individuals with memory dysfunction, including AD. However, EL learning has rarely been directly contrasted with other more traditional trial-and-error techniques (errorful learning or EF) in individuals with AD, especially in the context of alleviating word-finding problems. In the current study, we directly contrasted the therapeutic gains of an EL learning paradigm (consisting of reading/repetition of object names) with an EF learning technique (comprised of phonemic/orthographic cueing) in eight mild to moderate AD patients with pronounced anomia. Both techniques were administered concurrently in sessions run twice a week over a five-week period. Therapeutic gains were assessed at one week and five weeks post-intervention using confrontation naming. Our results suggest that, both at the group and individual patient level, EL and EF techniques were equally effective. Correlational analyses of overall therapy gains and background assessments of patient neuropsychology revealed that individuals with better scores on measures of semantic memory, pre-intervention naming, and recognition memory demonstrated larger therapy gains. No individual patient showed a significant advantage for EL over EF learning, however, for patients that showed a numerical advantage in this direction. These results suggest that either EL or EF therapy can be used to alleviate word-finding problems in AD.

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