How the treatment works

Our treatment works by training a core vocabulary of approximately 100 words.  Most people who enroll in the study already know most of these words, and that's great.  Our goal is to protect this small but essential vocabulary against the progression of Alzheimer's Disease and associated disorders.  A crucial component   of this treatment is how we select the words for training.

Principles for selecting the words

Let's start with a thought exercise.  Imagine you have been banished to a desert island to be accompanied only by a robot. This robot will be your only communication partner for the next 50 years.  You have the option of programming your robot's limited memory with 100 words. Once you arrive at the island, however, the robot cannot be reprogrammed, and the robot cannot learn new words.  Which words will you select for your robot?

This seems like a very strange exercise.  However, we put a great deal of thought into it.  It helped us to generate principles for optimizing a small vocabulary.  We put these principles to work in generating lists of words to train in Alzheimer's Disease and progressive aphasia.  Here they are:  

  1. Target words must be highly familiar and highly frequent.
  2. Target words must be concrete (i.e., able to see, hear, touch).
  3. Target words must be highly functional and contextually appropriate.
  4. Target words must combine well and should be associated with each other.
  5. Target words must have high information content (i.e., no wasted words).
  6. Target words must represent an array of key semantic categories for daily living
    • People (loved ones), Hygiene, Clothes, Foods, Activities, Places

Combining the training words into a cohesive system

We developed a communication board/book system using the above principles. Here's what it looks like:  

If you are curious what the items actually are, you can link to the lists in PDF form.  We generated item lists that are relatively gender specific for the category, clothes.  If you identify as male, here is your list  [download here] and female here is your  [download here].    

All of these words are rated and matched across categories for familiarity and frequency.

What do we do with these vocabulary words next?