A New Study Shows an At-Home Way to Keep Your Cognitive Abilities Intact

When I was in my early thirties, many moons ago, my MS center had a doctor on staff whose areas of interest included cognitive therapy for the MS patient. My nurse practitioner wanted me to get a baseline evaluation with him after I complained of having minor memory issues.

The cognitive evaluation was long and tedious yet somehow I passed with flying colors. Despite my victory the doctor instructed me on how to use a reliable backup system to help me maintain my busy schedule without forgetting a thing.

Life with my young son was wonderful but hectic, and I needed a reminder system to lean on.

In those days, before the birth of the Internet, I went to Staples and purchased a large black binder to fill with tabs and pages for calendars, notes, reminders and telephone numbers. I was diligent about using it and carried it with me wherever I went.

Today there are many ways of using our electronic devices to help us maintain our cognitive abilities. We know that MS can affect our thought processes, attention, concentration, learning, organizing and problem solving, and communicating to others. With the advent of computers there are countless sites that focus on helping us improve or maintain our cognitive abilities.

I currently play two brain games on my cell phone, hoping they’ll strengthen my memory, focus and concentration. One is Words with Friends (a Scrabble-like game brain game) and the other is Elevate (“a brain training app designed to improve focus, speaking skills, processing speed and more” - I use the free version.)

Recently I read about a successful controlled trial for an at home “brain training” program that showed improvement in cognitive function. According to an article by Daniela Semedo of Multiple Sclerosis News Today that appeared on the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers website, “These problems are thought to be associated with volume loss and atrophy in the brain’s grey matter.”

The study focused on using at-home sources to help patients instead of the need to travel to inconvenient sessions held at clinics and hospitals.

Using a group of 135 MS patients, some received the assignment of using Posit Science’s Brain Game HQ (made up of games or tasks) while others were placed in the placebo group and used common computer games. Both trained for one hour, five days a week, for 12 weeks.

The Brain HQ patients had a 29% improvement on neuropsychological tests while the placebo group had a 15 percent improvement.

“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.”

This is another step in the right direction to help us keep our brains active and elastic so that we can work on maintaining a better quality of life through better...thinking!

If you’re interested here are three sites that the website Techlicious recommends to help keep your brain moving:

  • Brain HQ (as referred to in this article)
  • Luminosity “An online brain game to train your brain” it’s available on iTunes or Google Play.
  • Fit Brains by Rosetta Stone - (“Stimulate your memory, focus and brain speed with our award winning brain training program designed by neuroscientists.”)

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