Transcranial stimulation, computer games decrease cognitive symptoms

February 28, 2017
Patients with multiple sclerosis had better problem solving ability and response time after training with a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). By enabling patients to be treated without repeat visits to the clinic, the approach may improve quality of life for this patient population, according to the study's authors.
 
Led by researchers at NYU Langone's Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center, participants with MS who used tDCS while playing the cognitive training computer games designed to improve information processing abilities showed significantly greater gains in cognitive measures than those who played the computer games alone. Importantly, the participants completed the cognitive training and tDCS while at home.
 
Researchers targeted an area of the brain linked to fatigue, depression, and cognitive function for tDCS. Twenty-five participants were provided with a tDCS system, which included a headset they learned to apply with guided help from the research team. Members of the tDCS group participated in 10 sessions, and the researchers compared their results to 20 participants with MS who only played cognitive training games in their 10 sessions.
 
Participants in the group treated with tDCS showed significantly greater improvements on sensitive, computer-based measures of complex attention, and increases in their response times across trials compared to the group that did cognitive training games alone. Improvements were shown to increase over time with the number of sessions, which suggests the tDCS may have a cumulative benefit.
 
The group that participated in tDCS plus cognitive training however did not show a statistically significant difference from the group that only played cognitive training games as measured by less sensitive standard measures like the Brief International Cognitive Assessment in MS tests, or on computer-based measures of basic attention. Those findings suggest the cognitive changes brought on by tDCS may require more treatment sessions to have noticeable improvements in daily functioning.

The study was published in Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.

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