June 8, 2021
Kat Nicholls

A new study has found that addressing a common cognitive deficit could help with depressive symptoms
If you live with depression, you’ll likely know many of the treatment options available. Some people find medication helpful, some benefit from talking therapy and others utilise a blended approach. Physical health is often highlighted by experts too, with exercise and eating a nutritious diet encouraged. But what about our brain health?

A new study published in Nature: Scientific Reports notes that there’s a common cognitive deficit in those with depressive symptoms and addressing this through brain training could help ease symptoms.

The cognitive skill in question is inhibitory control. When we have this skill, we can pause and check an impulsive response and choose to make a more considered response. It’s thought that people with depression may lack this skill, leading to sadness being triggered through information others would ignore or suppress with inhibitory control. This can then lead to rumination, when we stay stuck on a certain thought or event.

The study was carried out by researchers at Hebrew University, Dominican University, and Posit Science Corporation and used a computerised task to measure inhibitory control. It was discovered that the participants with deeper depressive symptoms had greater deficits in inhibitory control.

CEO of Posit Science, Dr Henry Mahncke explains that often we think of mood and cognitive function as separate things, but this isn’t the case.

“These new results confirm an emerging understanding of brain health – that mood and cognitive function are both functions of brain health, and are deeply intertwined, with bi-directional relationships between cognitive performance and mental health.

“This study raises an interesting question – could improving inhibitory control through brain training improve mental health?”

Previous studies from Posit Science using exercises from the BrainHQ app have indeed found that it can improve depressive symptoms in those who have not benefited from medication and can even reduce the risk of the onset of depressive symptoms.

More studies have shown the benefits of brain training using the exercises in BrainHQ including improvements in memory, attention, mood, confidence and social cognition.

The take-away from this study? It’s time to think holistically about our health, looking after our physical health, our mental health and our brain health together.