Software Could Help Treat Brain Injuries, Based on a New Study
Approximately 400,000 current and former American soldiers suffer from traumatic brain injuries, causing lack of concentration, memory less, depression, anxiety attack and other various issues. Sometimes these issues persist indefinitely.
It is has not been easy to find treatment for TBI, or more importantly – a cure.
Neuroscientists see great potential in techniques of manipulating the brain’s “neuroplasticity,” meaning the ability to rearrange its neuronal structure in response to behavior and stimuli.
Several companies including Nintendo sell brain health software products to consumers. The Department of Defense awarded a $2 million grant to Brain Plasticity Inc. to study the effectiveness of Posit Science software in restoring memory and attention in victims of traumatic brain injury.
TBI Posit Science software is going to be tested to see if it is effective and it could potentially be one of the first medical applications of an approach to brain improvements. This software could potentially help victims that have been diagnosed with autism, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and other neurological diseases.
“This is the beginning of a revolution,” said Michael Merzenich, the co-founder and chief scientist of Posit Science; the president of Brain Plasticity; and a celebrated University of California, San Francisco, neuroscientist who established the idea of neuroplasticity.
This software is intended to strengthen memory, attention, visual-spatial abilities, and language skills in aging adults. Studies have shown improvements in these areas but some are not convinced that the gains translate into long-term benefits that will assist in daily challenges.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a Duke University psychiatrist, is a critic of this study.
“There is a big gap between the claims and the evidence,” said Dr. Doraiswamy. “If they were a drug they would have been pulled from the market.”
The big questions is whether the software (which is very similar to a computer game) can improve overall mental activity for those with severe brain damage and trauma.
It is believed that doing brain exercises that focus and refine attention, you can adjust the structure of the brain. The same goes for learning a new skill, but the question is, can the process correct brain damage?
The objective of the software is to illuminate a strong signal by repeatedly practicing simple tasks, like recognizing repeated visual patterns.
The software is commercially available, and will be slightly modified for the veterans study.
The clinical trial will include 132 service members that suffer from mild TIB. Half of the group will be training on the company’s software. The other half, the control group, will be playing video games. All of the participants will be tested for memory, learning, attention, depression, social control, post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and other factors.
After three months of training, the participants will be tested again, then again in another three months.
Twenty-three year old Specialist Orlando Gonzalez is recovering from a brain injury from a suicide bomber hitting his infantry squad in Afghanistan. Specialist Gonzalez is currently a patient at the polytrauma center in Palo Alto undergoing physical therapy for partial paralysis to his left side. During the first month of his brain injury, he could not remember much at all. While being under treatment, he has improved.
If the software is proved to be effective in brain injury patients, about an hour of software exercises every day will help TBI patients recover. This would also include continual physical therapy.