A new study reveals that certain cognitive training exercises can help lower depression and improve brain health after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The findings show that, after cognitive training, TBI patients experience significant reductions in the severity of depressive symptoms, increased ability to manage emotions, improvements in cortical thickness and recovery from abnormal neural network connectivity.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report brain change associated with reduced depression symptoms after cognitive training,” said lead author Dr. Kihwan Han, a research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. Han works in the lab of Dr. Daniel Krawczyk.

“Overall, these findings suggest that cognitive training can reduce depressive symptoms in patients with traumatic brain injury even when the training does not directly target psychiatric symptoms.”

Previous research using the same procedure showed cognitive gains as well as similar changes in cortical thickness and neural network connectivity.

The new study involved 79 participants with chronic TBI who all were at least six months post-injury. The volunteers were randomly assigned into one of two groups: strategy-based training, which used the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program developed at the center; and information-based training, which used the Brain Health Workshop program. Researchers used the Beck Depressive Inventory to classify 53 of the participants as depressed.

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Published on PsychCentral August 8, 2018