Biggest Year Ever for Brain Training Studies

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Despite the global pandemic, the year just-ended was the most prolific ever for the publication of journal articles on the effectiveness of brain training. The research team at Posit Science – maker of the BrainHQ brain exercise apps – reports that 57 scholarly articles were published in 2020 on its exercises and assessments.

“The publications were made at a clip of more than one article each week, which is a remarkable pace,” commented Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “Only a small percentage of these publications were the work of our staff; the lion’s share was from independent university-based researchers. We are grateful to the global scientific community for advancing this new science, which offers so much hope to so many.”

The publications included reports on 32 randomized controlled trials of BrainHQ exercises, eight reviews and meta-analyses that included BrainHQ findings, and 17 other journal articles on pilots and other non-randomized trials of the exercises, as well as studies of BrainHQ assessments.

The papers included trials involving healthy adults and people with (or at risk for) a variety of clinical conditions – Alzheimer’s, Chemobrain, Conduct Disorder, Depression, Diabetes, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Heart Failure, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Stroke, Schizophrenia, and Substance Use Disorders.

While results varied across articles, and those involving medical conditions will require regulatory compliance before commercialization, the following were among the scientifically noteworthy.

In the area of pre-dementia and dementia:  A study among people at high risk for dementia found significant improvements in cognition and on a validated Alzheimer’s Risk Index, after a combination of risk reduction advice, BrainHQ exercises, physical exercise consultation, and dietary consultation – as compared to a control given the risk reduction advice but not the BrainHQ exercises and consultations. Another study showed that people with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) experienced significant gains – as compared to a control group – across a wide variety of standard measures, including physical health (heart rate variability), cognition (speed and attention), and neurological health (brain connectivity in networks governing attention and memory). A third small pilot study in people with MCI related to Alcohol Use Disorder noted significant overall cognitive improvements in patients who did BrainHQ in combination with taking the drug Donepezil, and when compared to a matched control from a prior study.

In a study of patients with heart failure, researchers found a combined therapy of BrainHQ and aerobic exercise significantly improved standard measures of self-care abilities and quality of life – which drive healthcare costs and health outcomes – while the effect of aerobic exercise alone was not significant. They also found the combined therapy drove a clinically significant improvement in the 6-minute walk test – an important measure of physical ability in heart failure patients – while the effect of aerobic exercise alone did not.

A study among schizophrenia patients showed the efficacy of BrainHQ exercises targeting social cognition – a signature deficit among people with schizophrenia.

Brain exercises were shown effective in addressing depression in treatment-resistant older patients, who had previously used anti-depressive drug therapy without success. The exercises improved not only mood, but also the often-unaddressed cognitive deficits associated with geriatric depression.

A study published in the Annals of Neurology showed BrainHQ training significantly improved a persistent and often undiagnosed array of neurological deficits that affect about a third of stroke patients. Known as “neglect syndrome,” the condition results in patients being unable to take in information from a portion of their visual field, which is often debilitating (as it interferes with basic movements, eating, and other personal care). This is the first scalable intervention shown effective in any study for neglect.

A comprehensive review and meta-analysis found, somewhat surprisingly, that many commonly-used types of interventions aimed at helping older drivers – such as driver education lectures, in-car demonstrations, simulator-based or on-road training – had no significant effect. Only skill-specific interventions – including cognitive training, visual-perceptual training, and physical training – had significant impact on driver performance. The reviewers noted that only the speed-of-processing cognitive training (now found exclusively in BrainHQ) significantly reduced at-fault crashes.

“We’re now amassing evidence at breakneck speed” noted Dr. Mahncke, “which we will be sharing with advocacy groups, grant-makers, clinicians, and regulators – to ensure this science reaches the people it can help.”

There are more than 100 published studies of the exercises in BrainHQ which have shown benefits, including gains in standard measures of cognition (attention, speed, memory, executive function), in standard measures of quality of life (mood, confidence and control, managing stress, health-related quality of life) and in real world activities (gait, balance, driving, work). BrainHQ is now offered, without charge, as a benefit by leading national and 5-star Medicare Advantage plans and by hundreds of clinics and communities. Consumers can try BrainHQ for free at