June 14, 2017
Multiple Sclerosis News Today
Cathy Chester

At times it can be difficult to know whether the cognitive issues I experience are the result of aging or multiple sclerosis. 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 the first symptom they develop.

Here are a few areas the NMSS lists as more likely to be affected than others:

  • 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, this concerns me, so I’ve been looking for ways to keep my brain active in addition to the reading I do. I want my brain to remain as elastic as possible, preparing it for whatever memory blips may come my way.

That’s why I was thrilled when the people at Posit Science 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 and 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.

“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.”

According to Posit’s press release “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 date, measuring the impact of brain training on cognition in MS patients.”

I spoke to Henry Mahncke, PhD, and CEO of Posit Science, whose excitement about BrainHQ was evident over the phone. 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. He added that the recent study proves that specific brain games can improve overall function because BrainHQ is based on the science by skilled neuroscientists at Posit.

He 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. Although I played only a few of their games I found them easy to manipulate and fun to play. I can’t wait to really dig in to give my brain a fabulous workout!