SAN FRANCISCO — A newly published study found that a particular kind of computerized brain training was “an effective non-pharmacological treatment in reducing impulsive aggression” among schizophrenia patients with a history of aggressive episodes. This study used the brain training app, BrainHQ from Posit Science.
The study authors note that Schizophrenia is associated with a 4 to 6-fold increase in the risk of engaging in verbal and physical threats, and a 4 to 7-fold increase in the risk of violent acts compared to other psychiatric and general population samples. While antipsychotic drugs are routinely used to manage aggression in schizophrenia, their benefits are limited by issues of non-adherence and inadequate treatment response. A number of prior studies in schizophrenia found that BrainHQ exercises improved measures of cognitive function and social cognition in people with Schizophrenia.
The 14-week study, at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center and at the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Westchester Behavioral Health Center, was conducted among 130 schizophrenia patients, who were randomized into two groups. The intervention group was asked to use BrainHQ exercises for 24 one-hour sessions of cognitive remediation training plus 12 one-hour sessions of social cognition exercises, and the control group was asked to use BrainHQ for 24 one-hour sessions plus 12 one-hour control sessions of computer games.
The researchers hypothesized that a combination of BrainHQ exercises with computerized social cognition exercises might reduce aggressive behavior more than BrainHQ alone. The social cognition exercises used were from a computerized program called MRIGE, which was first developed for patients with autism. All study participants were on one or more stable antipsychotic medications.
The researchers reported that the study did not confirm their hypothesis that MRIGE would enhance the effect of BrainHQ in reducing impulsive aggression. Rather, they found that BrainHQ (with or without MRIGE) is “an effective non-pharmacological treatment tool in reducing impulsive aggression in schizophrenia inpatient participants with a history of aggressive episodes.” The addition of MRIGE “did not enhance this anti-aggression treatment effect but did augment the effect on cognitive functions, on emotion recognition and on mentalizing capacity of participants.”
“There are now more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on the impact of BrainHQ on people with schizophrenia,” observed Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “Collectively, these results point to an important potential treatment path that would benefit from greater research funding.”
“Social and emotional function is sometimes viewed as distinct from cognitive function,” Dr. Mahncke continued, “but these new results confirm that these brain functions are deeply interrelated, and suggest that improving foundational cognitive performance may help people with schizophrenia in broad aspects of their daily lives, including inter-personal interactions.
“Other researchers have examined the effects of BrainHQ on disturbing and aggressive behaviors, with good effect,” Dr. Mahncke noted. “Benefits are not limited to people with schizophrenia. Prior studies have looked at other populations, such as tech workers engaged in go/no go tasks or police officers in shoot/don’t shoot situations, where greater personal control is very important. In fact, better impulse control is widely beneficial.”
BrainHQ has shown benefits in hundreds of studies. Such benefits include gains in cognition (attention, processing speed, memory, decision-making), in quality of life (depressive symptoms, confidence and control, health-related quality of life) and in real-world activities (health outcomes, balance, driving, hearing). BrainHQ is now offered, without charge, by leading national and 5-star Medicare Advantage plans and by leading medical centers, clinics, and communities. Consumers can try a BrainHQ exercise for free daily at https://www.brainhq.com.