July 29, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In a novel study among people with Down Syndrome, researchers found a 10-week combined protocol of physical exercises and computerized brain training led to a reorganization of the brain and to improved performance on both cognitive and physical measures. The cognitive training used in the study was the Greek version of the commercially-available BrainHQ brain app from Posit Science.

As reported on MedRXix, researchers at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, took physical, cognitive and resting-state EEG assessments of 12 adults with Down Syndrome before and after a 10-week course of combined physical and cognitive training.

The physical training consisted of aerobic, flexibility, strength, and balance exercises. The cognitive training was BrainHQ, consisting of 29 visual and auditory exercises targeting memory, attention, processing speed, problem-solving, navigation, and social skills. The researchers had hypothesized that the training would trigger the brain’s neuroplasticity – its ability to change chemically, structurally and functionally.

Their results showed increased connectivity within the left hemisphere and from left to right hemisphere, as well as improved performance on physical and cognitive assessments.

Physical improvements were reported in upper body strength and endurance (Arm Curl), and in mobility, and static and dynamic balance (Timed Up and Go).

Cognitive gains were reported in improved general cognitive capacity (Raven AB and Raven Total), planning and organization skills (WISC-III Mazes), and in short-term memory, attention, and concentration (WISC-III Digit Span Forward).

The researchers report “Our results reveal a strong adaptive neuroplastic reorganization, as a result of the training that leads to a more complex and less-random network, with a more pronounced hierarchical organization.”

In their report, the researchers note that the widespread cortical reorganization and increases in cognitive performance indicate the brain has entered into a more flexible state.

“Our findings underline the ability of the DS brain to respond to the cognitive demands of external stimuli, reflecting the possibility of developing independent-living skills,” the researchers conclude.

“Because Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder, people have thought that the brain function and cognitive abilities of people with Down Syndrome could not be changed,” observed Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the maker of BrainHQ. “These exciting results suggest that’s not true. We hope these initial results spur further research, including randomized controlled trials, with this important group of people.”