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SAN FRANCISCO, May 23, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A pilot study conducted at the University of Glasgow shows that computerized brain training may mitigate certain cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia. The brain exercises used in the study are from the BrainHQ brain exercise app made by Posit Science. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that brain training may present a new path for addressing mental health – a promising development during this month, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Scientists have known for some time that neural oscillations (sometimes called “brainwaves”) are a fundamental mechanism for enabling cognitive and perceptual processes, and that, among people with schizophrenia, gamma-band oscillations are reduced during perceptual tasks. In a prior study, researchers found that patients with chronic schizophrenia who used BrainHQ showed gains in gamma-band activity.
In the Glasgow study, researchers sought to determine whether 10 hours of BrainHQ training could improve cognitive performance and enhance gamma-band activity in people with early-stage psychosis. They found improvement in cognitive performance, especially in the domain of verbal memory, as well as an increase in gamma-band activity in areas associated with attentional and motor-related processes, suggesting that the brain exercises “improved task preparation and top-down attentional control, and resulted in a switch from reactive to proactive cognitive control strategies.”
Schizophrenia is often described in terms of three symptom groups: “positive,” “negative,” and “cognitive.” Positive symptoms, such as delusions, are often effectively treated with anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals. Negative symptoms, such as flat affect and lack of activity, are difficult to treat but can be addressed through medication and therapy. Cognitive symptoms are largely untreated, and often make it difficult for a person with schizophrenia to hold a job and live independently.
There are now more than 60 published papers on the impact of BrainHQ exercises on schizophrenia. Their findings include studies showing gains on cognitive measures (MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery) developed to measure the effectiveness of cognitive-enhancing drugs. These are not just gains in the task trained, but on standard measures of cognition, including measures of attention, memory, speed of processing, executive function, and social cognition. Imaging studies have shown changes in the brain itself, including increased activity in the amygdala, putamen and prefrontal cortex (associated with improved emotion perception and social cognition), increased mPFC activity (associated with improved social function), and significant gains in BDNF (a growth factor associated with neural health. One study even found increased ability to hold a job in patients with poor community function.
“We are excited by the findings of our global team of collaborators in using plasticity-based brain exercises to drive improvements in numerous measures of mental health,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science.” We plan continue our work with researchers, regulators, and payers to advance this new path for addressing mental wellbeing.”
More than 100 published studies of the exercises in BrainHQ have shown benefits, including gains in standard measures of cognition (attention, speed, memory, executive function, social cognition), in standard measures of quality of life (mood, confidence and control, managing stress, health-related quality of life) and in real world activities (gait, balance, driving, everyday cognition, maintaining independence). BrainHQ is now offered, without charge, as a benefit by leading national and 5-star Medicare Advantage plans and by hundreds of clinics, libraries, and communities. Consumers can also try BrainHQ for free at http://www.brainhq.com.