BACKGROUND: We examined the efficacy of group-based cognitive intervention (GCI) and home-based cognitive intervention (HCI) in amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and intervention effects on serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). METHODS: In this randomized and rater-blinded trial, 293 patients with aMCI from 18 nationwide hospitals were randomized: 96 to the GCI group, 98 to the HCI group and 99 to the control group. For 12 weeks, subjects receiving GCI participated twice per week in group sessions led by trained instructors, and those receiving HCI completed homework materials 5 days per week. They were assessed at baseline, postintervention (PI) and at the 6-month follow-up after the intervention. The primary endpoint was the change from baseline to PI in the modified Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog). RESULTS: In comparison to the controls (a 0.8-point decrease), the subjects receiving GCI (a 2.3-point decrease, p = 0.01) or HCI (a 2.5-point decrease, p = 0.02) showed significant improvements in the modified ADAS-Cog at PI, respectively. By the 6-month follow-up, those receiving GCI or HCI had better scores in the modified ADAS-Cog than the controls. The changes in BDNF levels significantly correlated with the changes in the modified ADAS-Cog in the GCI (r = -0.29, p = 0.02 at PI) and HCI (r = -0.27, p = 0.03 at 6-month follow-up) groups, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The GCI and HCI resulted in cognitive improvements in aMCI. An enhanced brain plasticity may be a component of the mechanism underpinning the cognitive improvements associated with the cognitive interventions.
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