Are you ready for some good news? Let’s start with a blunt reality. “We know very little about the brain,” writer Vivian Lam quoted Neurosurgery Professor Lu Chen in Stanford Medicine’s Scope blog. “We are still in need of an understanding of the fundamentals,” Stanford Neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate Tom Südhof concurred with Chen in the same article. Given the “incremental nature of scientific discovery” [Südhof’s words], a recent report on a New York University (NYU) study on the effects of brain training with patients with chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) is promising news. The NYU scientists used Posit Science’s BrainHQ plasticity-based brain training exercises to improve functional connectivity of the brain. These computer-based exercises can be be used on smartphones and tablets,

The NYU team measured resting-state functional connectivity (FC) of 18 adults with chronic TBI, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The team also recorded cognitive and self-reported function. The group tested the participants at the beginning and the end of a 13-week intervention period. An intervention group of 11 subjects received 40 hours of BrainHQ auditor processing speed training. The non-intervention control group of 7 people did not receive the training.

According to the study’s abstract, at baseline (before the intervention started) the two groups had no observed significant differences in cognitive function or resting-state functional connectivity. After the training period, the intervention group “demonstrated objective and subjective improvements on cognitive measures.” The non-intervention group showed no differences. So it’s pretty clear this study supports the concept of neural plasticity in patients with TBI and the efficacy of BrainHQ’s plasticity-based auditory processing speed training.

The NYU study is admittedly a pilot study, designed to explore the potential for further researc. Self-reporting by test subjects is always tricky, but the fMRI and cognitive function tests are objective measures. The same NYU team published another study of the effects of neuroplasticity-based auditory information processing with a larger group of chronic TBI patients in 2021 that also showed improved performance for the intervention group. That study used The Brain Fitness Program developed at the University of California by a group led by Michael Merzenich, BrainHQ’s co-founder and chief scientific officer. We look forward to seeing studies by groups not affiliated with BrainHQ, This work sounds promising for anyone, with implications for more than TBI, such as for aging adults.