TBI Recovery Possible: Cognitive Impairment Can Improve With Targeted Brain Training

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New research indicates that with specific brain training, cognitive improvements can be achieved even years after traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Although the fastest recovery occurs in the first six months following trauma, specific TBI programs can be applied to achieve continued improvements, as the new experiment shows.

Lori Cook, PhD, study author and director of the Center for BrainHealth's pediatric brain injury program at the University of Texas in Dallas enrolled 20 adolescents aged 12 to 20 years who experienced a TBI in the six months preceeding the study.

Participants were randomly assigned to strategy-based gist reasoning training or fact-based memory training, with both groups completing eight, 45-minute sessions over a one-month period.

Only the gist-reasoning group showed significant improvement in the ability to abstract meanings – a foundational cognitive skill to everyday life functionality – the researchers found.

The gist-reasoning-trained group also showed significant generalized gains to untrained areas including executive functions of working memory and inhibition, and demonstrated increased memory for facts, even though this skill was not specifically targeted in training.

"The after-effects of concussions and more severe brain injuries can be very different and more detrimental to a developing child or adolescent brain than an adult brain," said Lori Cook, PhD, study author and director of the Center for BrainHealth's pediatric brain injury programs at the University of Texas in Dallas. "While the brain undergoes spontaneous recovery in the immediate days, weeks, and months following a brain injury, cognitive deficits may continue to evolve months to years after the initial brain insult when the brain is called upon to perform higher-order reasoning and critical thinking tasks."

TBI Recovery Possible: Cognitive Impairment Can Improve With Targeted Brain Training
TBI Recovery Possible: Cognitive Impairment Can Improve With Targeted Brain Training
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can cause severe cognitive problems in adolescents and children, such as a loss of concentration or focus, communication, and problem-solving skills. But new research indicates that with specific brain training, cognitive improvements can be achieved even years after injury. The study was conducted by the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas and was published in Frontiers in Neurology.
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