The use of laptop computers in the neuroscience-informed cognitive training of auditory and verbal working and early auditory processing is found to be promising in improving cognition in patients that have recent-onset schizophrenia according to the result of new research. The study showed that patients who received auditory computer training are improving significantly in their cognitive function compared to individuals with matched control.
Lead investigator Sophia VinogradovMD, from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) told Medscape Medical News: "We have been doing studies of cognitive training in people who have had schizophrenia for 20 years with a lot of psychosocial impairment and impoverishment and have gotten some promising results. The next logical step was to see what would happen when we tried these same approaches in people very early in the course of their illness."
Dr.Vinogradov and her team has been working with patients who have schizophrenia that is within the first 5 years after being diagnosed, wherein average age of their participants for the study is 21 years old."We wanted to target improvement in cognition, which is something that medications and most psychosocial treatments do not touch very well. The cognitive deficits that people with schizophrenia have are present in the prodrome and appear to worsen as the illness progresses, and they have important predictive value for how people will end up doing over the long haul," she said.
80 patients that have recent-onset schizophrenia were given portable computers that they can take home. They were assigned 40 hours of commercial computer games or 40 hours of auditory training randomly wherein they can choose their own schedule doing it within 8 weeks. After the given period, the investigators are seeing changes in their neurocognitive outcome measures, functioning, and symptoms. An investigation was also made on their psychophysical improvement in processing auditory as well as its association with the cognitive gains.
Participants showed a slight but huge decrease in symptoms, they think that the results are promising and that cognition in this young age group can be targeted. It has been regarded that the brains of individuals that have schizophrenia can’t be repaired and are broken, but now they are starting to believe that the neural systems in such individuals can change.
"This is a very exciting study because it shows that cognition can be improved in these newly diagnosed schizophrenia patients. The fact that the laptop was given to the patient and the patient was able to take it home is particularly interesting. Coming into the clinic is pretty stigmatizing for a lot of people, and also can be inconvenient. If these patients can use the laptop at home and get better, that’s wonderful," said Dr. Woolley, who was not part of the study. Joshua Woolley, MD, PhD, from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California said.