Cognitive Enhancement Therapy Beneficial for Neurocognitive Function in Autism

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CET seems to be beneficial for adults with autism spectrum disorder.
CET seems to be beneficial for adults with autism spectrum disorder.

HealthDay News — For adults with autism spectrum disorder, cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) is associated with significant differential increases in neurocognitive function relative to enriched supportive therapy (EST) and increased likelihood of gaining competitive employment, according to a study published recently in Autism Research.

Shaun M. Eack, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues examined the efficacy of CET for improving core cognitive and employment outcomes in adult autism. Fifty-four verbal adult outpatients with autism spectrum disorder were randomized to an 18-month trial of CET, which integrates computer-based neurocognitive training with group-based training in social cognition, or an active EST comparison focused on psychoeducation and condition management. Composite indexes of neurocognitive and social-cognitive change were primary outcomes.

The researchers found that in intent-to-treat analyses, relative to EST, CET produced significant differential increases in neurocognitive function. Large social-cognitive improvements were seen in association with CET and EST, with an advantage at nine months, but not at 18 months, for CET. CET-treated participants were significantly more likely to gain competitive employment than those in EST (OR, 6.21), which was mediated by cognitive improvement.

"CET is a feasible and potentially effective treatment for core cognitive deficits in adult autism spectrum disorder," the authors write. "The treatment of cognitive impairments in this population can contribute to meaningful improvements in adult outcomes."


Eack SM, Hogarty SS, Greenwald DP, et al. Cognitive enhancement therapy for adult autism spectrum disorder: results of an 18- month randomized clinical trial [published online December 29, 2017]. Autism Res. doi:10.1002/aur.1913

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