Cognitive Training Reduces Depression, Rebuilds Injured Brain Structure and Connectivity After Traumatic Brain Injury

Posted on June 1, 2018

New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas shows that certain cognitive training exercises can help reduce depression and improve brain health in individuals years after they have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The recent study revealed significant reductions in the severity of depressive symptoms, increased ability to regulate emotions, increases in cortical thickness and recovery from abnormal neural network connectivity after cognitive training.

This study included 79 individuals with chronic TBI who all were at least six months post-injury. These individuals were randomly assigned into one of two groups: strategy-based training, which used the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program developed at the center; and information-based training, which used the Brain Health Workshop program. Researchers used the Beck Depressive Inventory to classify 53 of the participants as depressed. The participants' depressive-symptom severity, psychological functioning scores and data from magnetic resonance imaging brain scans were collected before training, after training and three months post-training. Scans were used to study changes in brain structure and neural network connectivity.

All participants in the depressed group showed significantly reduced depressive symptoms that were associated with improvements in cognitive and daily life functioning. The social engagements, cognitive stimulation from new learning opportunities and hope of improvement afforded by both programs may help explain the reductions in depressive symptoms. Based on the observed brain change patterns, improved emotion regulation also may be related to the reduced depressive symptoms. Over time, the reductions in depression symptom severity correlated with increased cortical thickness within the prefrontal cortex -- an area of the brain responsible for executive functions needed for emotional control -- and reductions in abnormally elevated neural connectivity within this region.

According to study author Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, identifying the changes that are happening in the brain when interventions successfully reduce depressive symptoms could allow us to create more effective, pharmaceutical-free approaches to help alleviate depression in people who experience chronic traumatic brain injury symptoms.


Category(s):Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from Science Daily


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