How do you know if the cognitive issues you’re experiencing are a sign of aging or are the result of an illness? Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- You can’t remember a word you’re searching for.
- You forgot the name of a book you read last month.
- The name of someone you recently met escapes you.
- You have trouble processing information.
According to the Cleveland Clinic:
“Almost all of us become aware of changes in memory and cognition (thinking) as we get older. We begin to have difficulty recalling names of people and places, notice that our mental processing has slowed, and that learning is more difficult. We find that certain functions (for example, eye-hand coordination) are also slower.”
According to The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) more than half of those living with MS develop problems with cognition, and in some cases it’s someone’s first symptom. Here are a few that are most likely to be affected:
- Information processing (dealing with information gathered by the five senses)
- Memory (acquiring, retaining and retrieving new information)
- Attention and concentration (particularly divided attention)
- Executive functions (planning and prioritizing)
- Visuospatial functions (visual perception and constructional abilities)
- Verbal fluency (word-finding)
As a writer and someone in her late fifties I look for ways to keep my cognitive skills intact.
I’m a voracious reader, and in my work I stretch my brain power by researching unfamiliar medical terms. I play several games of Words with Friends, but I’d like to find some new brain games.
That’s why I was thrilled to hear from the people at Posit Science who directed my attention to a recent study by researchers at NYU’s Langone Medical Center about BrainHQ, an online brain-training game that was created to test memory, focus, attention and much more.
The study consisted of 135 patients who were assigned randomly to either brain-training or computer games and trained for an hour a day, five days a week for 12 weeks. While both groups were found to improve in overall cognitive measure, the brain-training group had nearly three times the gain as the computer games group.
The study went a step further by asking patients to self-assess improvement in cognition performance. The brain-training group reported 56.7 percent improvement compared to the computer games group’s 31 percent.
The study was published in Plos One Neurology in an article titled “Cognitive Function in Multiple Sclerosis Improves with Telerehabilitation: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” It is believed to be the largest study to measure the impact of brain training on cognition in MS patients.
“This trial demonstrates that computer-based cognitive remediation accessed from home can be effective in improving cognitive symptoms for individuals with MS,” said Leigh Charvet, PhD, the study’s lead author.
“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.”
I spoke to Henry Mahncke, PhD, and CEO of Posit Science, whose excitement about BrainHQ was evident over the telephone. He was proud that BrainHQ found a way to increase processing skills and memory by taking science out of the lab and into the homes of patients.
Dr. Mahncke added that he hopes there’ll be a time when doctors and nurses point their patients to BrainHQ as a way to improve brain function. This recent study has brought his dream closer to fruition.
“We are encouraged by this publication of results by independent researchers in yet another clinical population,” said Mahncke. “With the assistance of other researchers and investors, these results will play a part in our plan to bring digital therapies to market after obtaining appropriate regulatory approvals.”
You can learn more about BrainHQ here. Their games are easy to manipulate and fun to play. Giving your brain a regular workout is a gift you give yourself. So keep your brain active and give it a try!
I’m thrilled to offer 5 readers full access to BrainHQ for one year! To enter leave a comment below. Contest ends at midnight on August 1st. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, August 2.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
I’m thrilled to be nominated for a Patient Leader Award from WEGO Health. Please take a moment to ENDORSE me, then scroll down the page and click the ENDORSE button. Winning would help me spread the work I do for the MS community to a wider audience. Thank you!!
(NOTE: A portion of this blog post was previously published in my column, Making a Difference, at Multiple Sclerosis News Today.)