June 23, 2014
2 min read

Cognitive training benefited adolescents with traumatic brain injury

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Targeted brain training could improve cognitive performance among adolescents who experienced traumatic brain injury, according to recent study findings published in Frontiers in Neurology.

“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,” Lori G. Cook, PhD, director of the pediatric brain injury programs at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, said in a press release. “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.”

Lori Cook

Lori G. Cook

Cook and colleagues evaluated 20 adolescents aged 12 to 20 years who had a traumatic brain injury at least 6 months before the study period to determine the effects of two forms of cognitive training on the ability to understand meaning and recall facts. Participants were randomly assigned into a strategy-based gist reasoning group (n=10) and a fact-based memory training group (n=10).

At baseline, no significant differences were found among the two groups for measures of abstracting meaning, providing interpretive statements and responses to probe questions regarding recall of text details.

After training, the gist reasoning group showed higher scores for abstracting meaning (P=.0002) than the memory group (P=.434). The gist reasoning group also showed higher scores for ability to provide interpretive statements (P=.042) than the memory group (P=.12). Both groups showed improvement for ability to recall details; however, the memory group did not reach statistical significance.

Improvements were also found for the gist reasoning group for full-scale IQ (P=.071), working memory (P=.023) and inhibition (P=.047), whereas no significant changes were found for the memory group.

“Having a clear process for handling traumatic brain injuries increases the likelihood of recovery and improvement,” Cook told Healio.com. “It is important to treat brain injuries with the same care you would treat other serious injuries. Ideally, everyone should establish a baseline of cognitive performance, just like our physical health is assessed each year by a physician, and comprehensively reassess each year, especially after an injury. Best practices should include annual monitoring of cognitive and emotional symptoms, even if the injured individual seems to have recovered, to immediately address any later-emerging deficits.” — by Amber Cox

Lori G. Cook, PhD, can be reached at 2200 W. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75235; email: lori.cook@utdallas.edu.

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.