Previous studies showed that cognitive training can improve cognitive performance in various neurodegenerative diseases but little is known about the effects of cognitive training on the brain. Here, we investigated the effects of our cognitive training paradigm, COGTIPS, on regional white matter microstructure and structural network topology. We previously showed that COGTIPS has small, positive effects on processing speed. A subsample of 79 PD patients (N = 40 cognitive training group, N = 39 active control group) underwent multi-shell diffusion-weighted imaging pre- and post-intervention. Our pre-registered analysis plan (osf.io/cht6g) entailed investigating white matter microstructural integrity (e.g., fractional anisotropy) in five tracts of interest, including the anterior thalamic radiation (ATR), whole-brain tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS), and the topology of the structural network. Relative to the active control condition, cognitive training had no effect on topology of the structural network or whole-brain TBSS. Cognitive training did lead to a reduction in fractional anisotropy in the ATR (B [SE]: - 0.32 [0.12], P = 0.01). This reduction was associated with faster responses on the Tower of London task (r = 0.42, P = 0.007), but this just fell short of our statistical threshold (P < 0.006). Post hoc "fixel-based" analyses showed that this was not due to changes in fiber density and cross section. This suggests that the observed effect in the ATR is due to training-induced alterations in neighboring fibers running through the same voxels, such as intra-striatal and thalamo-striatal fibers. These results indicate that 8 weeks of cognitive training does not alter network topology, but has subtle local effects on structural connectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date18 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2021

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