The cognitive therapy technique used by people with neurodegenerative diseases can help them better function at work, sleep, and play, according to a new study.
The research was published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Neurology.
The findings are based on more than a dozen neurodegenative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), that were treated with cognitive-therapy treatments.
The study was led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
It involved more than 100 people with neurological diseases, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to amyotrophied spinal cord and spinal muscular atrophy.
The patients were divided into two groups: One received a cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention and the other received standard care.
In addition, the researchers measured their cognitive functioning and physical function at baseline and after the cognitive-treatment intervention.
The researchers found that those who received cognitive-treatments also had improved cognitive function in a number of measures.
The improvements were also found in physical function, including flexibility, balance and coordination, and muscle strength.
The improvement in cognitive function was also more pronounced for those who had a history of cognitive-developmental disorders, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia.
Those with ADHD, for example, have difficulties processing information, while those with autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have difficulties controlling attention.
Those who had mild cognitive impairments were less likely to respond to cognitive-training interventions compared with those with more severe cognitive impairment.
Those receiving cognitive-education training also reported more positive symptoms such as increased motivation and better mood.
However, those with mild cognitive impairment and those with schizophrenia had the greatest improvement in their cognitive-function.
“We found that the cognitive training improved cognitive-processing and cognitive-skills scores, as well as their quality of life,” said senior author Jody Hahn, PhD, professor of neurology and behavioral sciences and associate director of the Stanford Center for Neural Science and Technology.
“It also improved cognitive symptoms and quality of sleep, which is important for improving cognition.”
The study also examined the effect of the cognitive treatment on brain structure and function.
The scientists found that people who received the cognitive treatments had increased blood flow in brain regions critical for cognition.
They also reported improvements in cognition in other areas of the brain, including the brain’s white matter, which supports the memory, attention and problem-solving abilities of the human brain.
Cognitive therapy treatments are also used to treat other neurological disorders, for instance, autism and epilepsy.
Hahn said the results of the study were not all that surprising, given that people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s also suffer from cognitive impairment, and cognitive therapy is used to help with cognitive function.
“In some cases, cognitive therapy may actually be useful in helping to improve cognition in those people who are already doing well,” Hahn explained.
“If you want to improve cognitive function, the most important thing is to improve your functioning.”
A study published in April showed that cognitive therapy improved memory and learning skills for children with autism.