Video games improve brain connections in patients with multiple sclerosis ;
Playing games “brain training” video can help improve some cognitive abilities of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) by strengthening neural connections an important part of your brain, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology .
MS is a disease of the central nervous system resulting in damage to the protective covering of nerve fibers. Symptoms include weakness, muscle stiffness and difficulty thinking, a phenomenon often referred to as “fog brain .” MS affects an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
Damage to the thalamus, a structure in the center of the brain that acts as a sort of information center, and its connections to other parts of the brain play an important role in cognitive decline many MS patients experience.
Researchers led by Laura De Giglio, MD, Ph.D., Department of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Rome Sapienza, recently studied the effects of a cognitive rehabilitation program based on the video game in the thalamus in patients with multiple sclerosis. They used a video game collection Nintendo Corporation, called Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima, who train the brain using puzzles, word memory and other mental challenges. The games are based on the work of Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, M. D.
Twenty-four patients with MS with cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to take part in eight weeks, play sessions with the program involves the rehabilitation at home 30 minutes, five days a week, or be put on a waiting list, which serves as a control group. Patients were evaluated with cognitive and 3-Tesla at rest functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI-RS) at baseline and after the eight-week test period. Functional imaging when the brain is in its resting state, or not focused on a particular task, provides important information on neuronal connectivity.
“Functional MRI allows you to study which brain areas are active simultaneously and gives information on the participation of certain areas with specific brain circuits,” said Dr. De Giglio. “When we talk about greater connectivity, we mean that these circuits have been modified, increasing the extension of areas that work at the same time.”
In following, the 12 patients in the game had a significant increase in the functional connectivity of the thalamus in brain areas corresponding to subsequent network component in automatic mode, which is one of the most important brain networks involved in cognition. The results provide an example of brain plasticity, or the ability to form new connections throughout life.
“This increased connectivity reflects the fact that the video game experience changes the mode of operation of certain brain structures,” said Dr. De Giglio. “This means that even a tool widely and commonly used as video games can promote brain plasticity and can help in cognitive rehabilitation for people with neurological diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis .”
Changes in the functional connectivity shown in the group games after training corresponded to significant improvements in the evaluation of test results sustained attention and executive function, cognitive higher level skills that help organize our lives and regulate our behavior.
The results suggest that brain training based on video game is an effective option to improve cognitive abilities of patients with MS.
In the future, researchers hope to study whether induced plasticity video games in MS patients is also associated with improvements in other aspects of their daily lives. They also plan to look at how the game video can be integrated into a rehabilitation program, along with other rehabilitation techniques.
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Posted in: Neuroscience