Article: Brain Training Helps Veterans (and Civilians)

This is an interesting article about how strategy-based cognitive training helped veterans and civilians who had experienced traumatic brain injuries.

Conducted at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, this study consisted of 60 veterans or civilians with a history of at least one brain injury; most of them had sustained the injury more than 10 years ago. Participants were broken into a test group - who received the strategy-based brain training - and the control group - who received standard information-based training. Now, I'm not clear exactly what "strategy-based" interventions were used, but surely they required heavy use of the logical, higher reasoning portions of the brain.

To evaluate the improvement of both groups, researchers tested participants repeatedly throughout the 8-week program with cognitive assessments (being asked to remember things, etc.), MRI scans, and tests for symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers found that the test group - the group receiving strategy-based brain training - improved significantly more than the control group in a number of areas. Abstract thinking was improved 20% and memory recall by 30%. Perhaps more interesting was the 60% reduction in depressive symptoms and a 40% reduction in PTSD symptoms. Also interesting was the fact that these benefits persisted months after the brain training had ended.

One of the researchers noted that these results suggest "that brain injuries should be treated more like a chronic health condition rather than a single short-term event." This conclusion makes good sense for people retraining their brains with mindfulness exercises too. The brain is a very neat organ that is capable of ridiculous levels of transformation and "healing." Mindfulness exercises can help refocus the brain away from anxious thinking. Improvement happens quite quickly and can last for a long time, but keeping up with those exercises will help sustain those improvements. So don't slack on your yoga and meditation!