Strategy-based brain training changes cortical thickness, neural connectivity in adults with TBI

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A recent study from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas shows that a certain type of instructor-led brain training protocol can stimulate structural changes in the brain and neural connections even years after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The findings, published in Brain and Behavior, further suggest that changes in cortical thickness and neural network connectivity may prove an effective way to quantitatively measure treatment efficacy, an ability that has not existed until now. Building upon previous research, the study challenges the widely held belief that recovery from a TBI is limited to two years after an injury.

"A TBI disrupts brain structure. These brain changes can interfere with brain network communication and the cognitive functions those networks support," said Dr. Kihwan Han, research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and lead author of the study.

"For people with chronic TBI, they may have trouble with daily tasks such as creating shopping lists and resolving conflicts with others for many years after the injury. These findings provide hope for people who thought, 'This is as good as my recovery is going to get' and for the medical community who have yet to find a way to objectively measure a patient's recovery," he said.

The study included 60 adults with TBI symptoms lasting an average of eight years. Participants were randomly placed into one of two cognitive training groups: strategy-based training or knowledge-based training. Over an eight-week period, the strategy-based training group learned strategies to improve attention and reasoning. The knowledge-based training group learned information about the structure and function of the brain as well as the effects of sleep and exercise on brain performance.

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