At-Home ‘Brain Training’ Program for MS Patients Reported to Improve Cognitive Skills by 29%

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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MS and cognitive deficits

Multiple sclerosis patients using a cognitive remediation computer training program, part of a controlled trial by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, had greater improvements in cognitive function than those who used a placebo-training program, according to a presentation at the recent American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Problems in attention, memory, verbal fluency, and information processing can be common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), with difficulties reported in finding the right words and keeping up in conversations, or trouble remembering routines at home or work. According to the researchers, these problems are thought to be associated with volume loss and atrophy in the brain’s grey matter.

Cognitive remediation training programs, while seen to be of benefit, are often inconvenient, requiring at least weekly in-person sessions at clinics.

Researchers tested the efficacy of an at-home cognitive remediation treatment program in a group of 135 MS patients with cognitive deficits. Participants were randomly assigned to either a computerized program called Posit Science’s Brain HQ (71 patients), consisting of a series of games and tasks, or to a placebo program with common computer games (64 patients). People in both groups trained one hour a day, five days a week, for a total  of 12 weeks.

Results revealed that patients assigned to the Brain HQ program had a 29 percent improvement on neuropsychological tests, compared to a 15 percent improvement in those using the placebo program.

“This trial demonstrates that computer-based cognitive remediation accessed from home can be effective in improving cognitive symptoms for individuals with MS,” Leigh Charvet, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology, director of MS Research at NYU’s Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center, and 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.”

“Many patients with MS don’t have the time or resources to get to the clinic several times a week for cognitive remediation, and this research shows remotely-supervised cognitive training can be successfully provided to individuals with MS from home,” said Lauren B. Krupp, MD, the study’s senior author, a professor of neurology, and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center. “Future studies will look at which patients with MS might respond most to cognitive remediation, and whether these improvements can be enhanced or sustained over longer periods of time.”

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