A new initiative is helping police officers sharpen and exercise the most powerful weapon at their disposal: their brains.

As part of the brain power series on TODAY, special anchor Maria Shriver took a look at a groundbreaking program in the Dallas Police Department that was implemented to help officers in the wake of the shooting last summer in which a gunman killed five Dallas policemen during a protest.

With police officers often facing extreme stress and trauma on a regular basis, the program created by the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas provides weeks of cognitive training to make officers’ minds sharper and more balanced.

“We’re really improving the overall function of their brain, and they’re better able to be attentive, to block out things that aren’t important,” Dr. Leanne Young of the Center for Brain Health told Shriver on TODAY.

“Both professionally and personally, it’s helped me be resilient,” Dallas Police Major Paul Junger said.

Known as the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program, the initiative looks to help police make tactical decisions under stress and better manage their emotions under pressure.

Experts say police are now at a higher risk for sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide, which the SMART program aims to combat by focusing on improving cognitive performance and reducing fatigue.

“We train for active shooters, but what we don’t train for is mental well-being,” Junger said. “And until our officers are healthy and mentally balanced, we can’t go help anybody else.”

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