Monday, April 2, 2012

Computers Boost Brain Plasticity

New studies are showing how computers can boost brain plasticity with patients who suffer from mental illnesses for example. Brain plasticity the brain’s ability to make new connections and function more efficiently, the more connections your brain makes the better it work for you. So as science identifies more ways to increase brain plasticity it can help a lot of people.

In this particular study they focused on computer training programs that are designed specifically to increase cognitive abilities. There was one study conducted on people who suffered from schizophrenia and another study focused on people who had other mental illnesses. Each set of patients did computer activities designed to focus on the front area of the brain.

The past 20 years have seen major advances in neuroscience research and we have learned much more about the mechanics of the brain and the changes it goes through in a lifetime. In the group of people with schizophrenia the doctors used 31 patients with a longstanding history with the disease as well as 15 healthy control patients so they could compare the difference.

The patients received 80 hours of intensive computer training in the laboratory. In the first round of MRI reality monitoring they did a word association test. The healthy people showed increased functionality when recalling these words. The people with schizophrenia showed no increased brain plasticity. After the training the patients with schizophrenia identified a much larger amount of words and showed significantly more brain activity when doing it.

The study was completed over a 16 week period the more computer training tasks the patients did the more they started to catch up with the healthy patients in terms of processing and brain plasticity. Also by the end of the study their social functioning was very much improved also.

The same results were found with the other patients. The scientists with this study used the Stroop test to measure attention, flexibility and functioning during an MRI. These patients as well showed an increase in brain plasticity and functioning after using computer brain training programs.

In addition one of the more startling findings was that the mind at rest also saw increases in activity. With the healthy group and at rest mind went into a decline of activity. The other unexpected finding is though there as increase in brain plasticity there was no increase in grey and white matter. The scientists attributed this to the natural decline of plasticity seen in patients.

Today we have new technique that can help maintain and improve brain health of individuals through brain training. Leveraging brain plasticity, brain training has been proven to be an important tool to have a healthy lifestyle. Through computers and online programs, you can actually leverage that plasticity of your mind to exercise the cognitive abilities that are important for your daily life. Memory, concentration and other abilities need to be maintained as long as possible and can be even further improved over time. Thanks to computer, the world today can remain healthy and even sharper!

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