Cognitive training and cognitive rehabilitation are interventional approaches designed to address alterations, injuries or impairment of cognitive functioning. According to the Center for Brain Training, the brain has the ability to change itself, also known as neuroplasticity. The main premise behind “brain training” holds that through utilizing brain training games and exercises, one can learn to regulate cognitive and mental functioning on their own. Some scientists see this as an innovative approach to treat addictions, learning disabilities and mental health disorders such as Attention deficit disorder (ADD), Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Borderline personality disorder.
According to a recently published Forbes article written by Robert Szcerba on brain training software developed by a company called Evoke, the brain processing speed for vision, hearing, attention, thinking and remembering can be measured in milliseconds, utilizing brain training software. Wireless data-capturing technology, signal processing algorithms, cloud-based data storage (Internet server storage and processing), as well as wearable biosensors and other biometric measures all encompass a real-time service that can measure and display the results of how a person’s moods, thoughts and stress levels can change as he or she works through particular brain exercises.
Countering opinions on brain training software efficacy in mental health
Over the last fifteen years there have been differences of opinion in regards to proving the efficacy of cognitive therapy (CT) for certain mental health disorders, learning disorders or for general cognitive enhancement.
In 2012, the National Institute for Mental Health held a convention of experts in cognitive training in an effort to review the evidence supporting the efficacy of the brain training model, cognitive training or cognitive remediation, as well as to discuss and review other evidence-based CT treatment modalities that could be used for people with mental disorders. It was agreed that further value on the CT model approach could be added by combining intervention approaches. For example, combining CT and “priming” interventions (direct brain stimulation or aerobic exercise) would enhance the effects of the CT (NIMH 2012).
Some states have adopted policies to include cognitive remediation as one of their Medicaid reimbursable services allowed in its Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services (PROS) program for adults with mental illness and functional impairments. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH will utilize existing Funding Opportunity Announcements to guide the field (NIMH 2012).
Brain training smartphone applications
Brain training games are also gaining popularity in phone applications, similar to the computer brain training games. The phone ‘apps’ are meant to address specific categories of brain function, focusing on attention, working memory or problem solving capabilities.
A recent article on “The 10 best apps to train your brain” written by Perry Santanachote in September 2014, describes the top 10 apps to train the brain, as cognitive training software that can affect a person’s mood and cognitive sharpness.
- Lumosity—According to developers, one session a day can improve mental skills
- CogniFit Brain Fitness—Developers found that users saw improvement after 20 minutes (two to three times a week)
- Personal Zen—Developers suggest using app before a stressful event and that 10 minutes a day would help build more enduring positive effects
- Brain Trainer Special—Letter sequences, phone numbers and solving assorted math problems
- Brain Fitness Pro—dramatically increases attention and cognitive skills; long term benefits
- Happify—This app’s goal is to build skills on how to be happy
- Positive Activity Jackpot—improves moods, helps overcome despondent thoughts and is free
- Fit Brains Trainer—Sessions get harder as people improve and will challenge them and provide a solid brain workout
- Eidetic—tests long-term memory and is free
- ReliefLink—was originally developed for suicide prevention, can be used as a mood tracker
Increasing demands to understand the exact processes of how the brain affects the human body, coupled with the dire need to revolutionize pharmaceutical drug addiction, have created a major initiative to accelerate the development and application of technologies that can increase knowledge and understanding of brain processes.
According to whitehouse.gov the Presidential Commision for the Study of Bioethical Issues released the first of two reports exploring core ethical standards to guide the BRAIN initiative and other recent advances in neuroscience in May 2014.
It’s an exciting time in the field of mental health and a time that everybody can benefit from. If you or a loved one would like more information on brain training techniques available in your area, you can call the 24/7 Mental Health helpline to learn more.