Background: Cognitive impairment is highly prevalent in COPD and is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet and increased cognitive stress susceptibility. Enhancement of cognitive performance by working memory training (WMT) may reverse these effects. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the efficacy of WMT in COPD on cognitive performance, healthy lifestyle behaviours and cognitive stress susceptibility.
Methods: The double-blind randomised, placebo-controlled Cogtrain trial consisted of a 12-week training phase comprising 30 active or sham WMT sessions, followed by a second 12-week maintenance phase with 12 sessions. Measurements took place at baseline and after the first and second phases. The primary outcome was cognitive performance. Secondary outcomes were the recall of prespecified healthy lifestyle goals, physical capacity and activity, dietary quality and cognitive stress susceptibility. Motivation towards exercising and healthy eating and psychological wellbeing were exploratory outcomes.
Results: Sixty-four patients with moderate COPD (45% male, aged 66.2±7.2 years, median forced expiratory volume in 1 s 60.6% predicted) were randomised. WMT significantly increased patients' performance on the trained tasks in the first phase, which remained stable in the second phase. Of the 17 cognitive outcome measures, only one measure of memory improved after the first phase and one measure of reaction time after the second phase. This intervention did not influence physical capacity and activity, recall of prespecified healthy lifestyle goals, psychological wellbeing or cognitive stress susceptibility.
Conclusion: WMT improved performance on the trained tasks but not overall cognitive performance, healthy lifestyle behaviours or cognitive stress susceptibility in patients with COPD.