OBJECTIVE - The authors' goal was to evaluate the possibility of treating brain and behavioral aspects of verbal memory dysfunction in patients with schizophrenia through cognitive exercises.
METHOD - Eight patients did daily verbal memory exercises that became progressively more difficult over a 10-week training period. Memory performance and regional brain activations during a verbal memory task were assessed before and after these exercises.
RESULTS - Verbal but not nonverbal memory performance improved after training; three patients made substantial gains, and five showed little change. Performance gains were correlated with increases in task-related activation of the left inferior frontal cortex. One patient given 5 extra weeks of training 6 weeks after the initial training period showed maintenance of initial performance gains 6 weeks after training, further improvement after the second period of training, and normalization of task-related activation of the left inferior frontal cortex.
CONCLUSIONS - Verbal memory deficits can be ameliorated by memory exercises in some patients with schizophrenia. Performance improvements are associated with increased task-related activation of the same brain region that is activated during verbal memory tasks in healthy individuals.