The online BrainHQ adaptive training program developed by Posit Science is better than any computer game at helping multiple sclerosis (MS) patients improve their cognitive skills, according to a study by researchers at New York University (NYU).
The study, “Cognitive function in multiple sclerosis improves with telerehabilitation: Results from a randomized controlled trial,” appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.
Up to 70 percent of MS patients suffer cognitive impairment — affecting information processing, attention and learning — yet adequate treatments are lacking. Traditional rehabilitation programs in MS, such as compensatory strategies and drill-and-practice training are costly to administer in-person and require patients to travel to appointments.
In the trial (NCT02141386), researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU’s MS Comprehensive Care Centers enrolled 135 patients at Stony Brook Medicine; 74 were assigned to use the BrainHQ training, while 61 were given ordinary computer games. Patients trained an hour a day, five days a week for a total of 60 hours over a 12-week period.
Compliance was high in both groups, with the computer games group averaging 57 hours and the brain-training group averaging 38 hours. After 12 weeks, both groups showed improvement, as measured by changes in the neuropsychological Composite Score —a battery of tests that served as a primary outcome.
However, participants in the BrainHQ training program had far greater improvement in cognitive functioning than those who trained with normal computer games, even though they trained for one-third the time. The group gained about 29 percent in the overall cognitive composite score.
As a secondary measure, patients were asked to self-assess whether they felt any improvement in cognition. Of those who trained with the BrainHQ program, 56.7 percent said they had improved, compared to 31 percent in the ordinary computer games group.
“This trial demonstrates that computer-based cognitive remediation accessed from home can be effective in improving cognitive symptoms for individuals with MS,” Leigh Charvet, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “The remote delivery of an at-home test and findings of cognitive benefit may also be generalizable to other neurological conditions in which cognitive function is compromised.”
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