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Errorless practice as a possible adjuvant to donepezil in Alzheimer’s disease

  • LESLIE J. GONZALEZ ROTHI (a1) (a2) (a3), RENEE FULLER (a1) (a4), SUSAN A. LEON (a1) (a5) (a6), DIANE KENDALL (a1) (a7), ANNA MOORE (a8) (a9), SAMUEL S. WU (a1) (a10) (a11), BRUCE CROSSON (a1) (a12), KENNETH M. HEILMAN (a1) (a2) (a3) (a6) and STEPHEN E. NADEAU (a1) (a2) (a3)...


Six individuals with probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) participated in a phase 1 study employing a repeated measures, parallel baseline design testing the hypothesis that error-free experience during word production practice combined with an acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor would improve confrontation naming ability. While acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors are safe and delay cognition decline associated with AD, improvement over baseline cognition is less evident; clinically significant cognitive deficits persist and progress. Both animal and clinical research strongly implicate acetylcholine in learning, a form of neuroplasticity. In clinical practice, however, people with AD are given cholinergic medications without concomitant systematic/targeted retraining. In this study six participants with probable AD and taking donepezil participated in targeted word production practice using an errorless learning strategy. Results showed that combining behavioral enrichment training and an acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor resulted in significant improvements in verbal confrontation naming of trained items for three of six participants. Differences in baseline dementia severity, living conditions, and medications may have influenced the training response. Detection of substantial treatment effects in 50% of subjects suggests further language treatment studies in AD in combination with an acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor are warranted and provide useful information on inclusion/exclusion criteria for use in subsequent studies. (JINS, 2009, 15, 311–322.)


Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Leslie J. Gonzalez Rothi, Ph.D., Brain Rehabilitation Research Center, Room 151a, Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, 1601 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, Florida 32608-1197. E-mail:


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