Computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation improves substance-abuse treatment response

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Brain exercises" originally developed for the rehabilitation of head-injury patients improve the cognitive functioning of individuals in substance-abuse treatment and their commitment to the treatment program, according to research conducted at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

Those who participated in the cognitive rehabilitation exercises involving the use of computers stayed in treatment significantly longer than others and twice as many of them "graduated" from treatment.

The research, reported in the Winter 2003 issue of The Journal of Cognitive Rehabilitation, was funded by grants totaling $1 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Kerry Grohman, Ph.D., RIA research associate and lead investigator on the study, noted that "impaired cognitive functioning -- in memory, problem-solving, abstraction, and information processing -- is common in individuals who enter treatment for alcohol and drug dependence."

Cognitive functioning for many patients in substance-abuse treatment gradually improves over the first year of abstinence. Cognitive rehabilitation, Grohman said, is a way to accelerate cognitive recovery, so that patients have a better chance at successful treatment for addiction and functioning in life after treatment.

Cognitive-rehabilitation exercises improve cognitive functioning with tasks that focus on impaired skills (such as memory and attention) through repetition. Impaired memory and attention have been linked to poorer retention and results in treatment. The RIA study included 120 patients (70 percent male) randomly assigned to three treatment interventions.

Those in the group that received computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation plus standard treatment remained in a six-month residential treatment program for an average of 200 days, significantly longer than other patients. Patients in the computer-assisted rehabilitation grou

Contact: Kathleen Weaver
University at Buffalo

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