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Society for Neuroscience 2016

November 12th to the 16th 2016 saw the annual conference from the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.

Researchers from around the world presented their findings during poster sessions.

These included a number of studies which used CANTAB to sensitively measure cognitive function across a range of disorders and impairments, such as this poster from the Centre for Gerontology & Rehabilitation at University College Cork:

The cognitive neurobiology of caregiver stress: impact of psychological interventions on impaired memory and attention

Poster #165 

Authors: *G. Clarke1 , A. P. Allen1 , A. Ni Chorcorain2 , J. Wall1 , P. Kearney1 , J. F. Cryan1 , T. G. Dinan1 , D. W. Molloy1 ;

1 Univ. Col. Cork, Cork, Ireland
2 Ctr. for Gerontology & Rehabil.,

Image thanks to @caramhueston


Demographic shifts in the global population highlight the increasing need for caregivers in an aging society. There is emerging evidence that the chronic stress of caregiving for a relative with dementia may impact upon central nervous system activity in caregivers, but this remains a poorly understood area. The current study aimed to examine the cognitive neurobiology in parallel with the psychological impact of this chronic stressor in a cohort of family dementia caregivers.


Ethical approval was obtained from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals. Caregivers for a spouse or parent with dementia (N = 31) and controls with low-moderate perceived stress (N = 18) completed cognitive tasks from the CANTAB battery assessing memory, attention and executive function, as well as validated tests of stress and depression. These measures were completed again in a sub-set of caregivers (N = 7) following two psychological interventions (a mindfulness-based stress reduction program; MBSR and a carer training program; CTP).


Our preliminary study results suggest the presence of higher levels of stress and depressive symptoms in caregivers compared to controls. Caregivers made a higher number of errors on the paired associates learning task, which engages the hippocampus, suggesting poorer visuospatial memory. Caregivers also had slower response latency on a test of sustained attention (rapid visual information processing). Following both MBSR and CTP, carers performed better at both of these cognitive tasks.


Caregivers for people with dementia show a subtle but significant impairment in attention and memory performance. However, this impairment may be attenuated following psychological interventions that target stress. A comprehensive physiological phenotyping of dementia caregivers before and after intervention is required to better understand the mechanisms of these effects.

If you are presenting your CANTAB findings at an upcoming conference, let us know.

If you would like more information on using CANTAB in your research, get in touch.