A 12-week multidimensional “brain fitness program” provides multiple benefits for individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), post-concussion syndrome (PCS), and memory loss, new research shows.
The program, which consists of targeted cognitive training and electroencephalography (EEG)–based neurofeedback, coupled with meditation and diet/lifestyle coaching, led to improvements in memory, attention, mood, alertness, and sleep.
The program promotes “neuroplasticity and was equally effective for patients with all three conditions,” program creator Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.
Patients with mild to moderate cognitive symptoms often see “remarkable” results within 3 months of consistently following the program, said Fotuhi, adjunct professor of neuroscience at George Washington University, Washington, DC, and medical director of NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center, McLean, Virginia.
“It actually makes intuitive sense that a healthier and stronger brain would function better and that patients of all ages with various cognitive or emotional symptoms would all benefit from improving the biology of their brain,” Fotuhi added.
The findings are based on 223 children and adults who completed the 12-week NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Program (NeuroGrow BFP), including 71 with ADHD, 88 with PCS, and 64 with memory loss, defined as diagnosed mild cognitive impairment or subjective cognitive decline.
As part of the program, participants undergo a complete neurocognitive evaluation, including tests for verbal memory, complex attention, processing speed, executive functioning, and the Neurocognitive Index.
They also complete questionnaires regarding sleep, mood, diet, exercise, and anxiety/depression, and they undergo quantitative EEG at the beginning and end of the program.
A comparison of before and after neurocognitive test scores showed that all three patient subgroups experienced statistically significant improvements on most measures, the study team reports.
After completing the program, 60% to 90% of patients scored higher on cognitive tests and reported having fewer cognitive, sleep, and emotional symptoms.
In all subgroups, the most significant improvement was observed in executive functioning.
“These preliminary findings appear to show that multimodal interventions which are known to increase neuroplasticity in the brain, when personalized, can have benefits for patients with cognitive symptoms from a variety of neurological conditions,” the investigators note.
The study’s strengths include a large, community-based sample of patients of different ages who had disruptive symptoms and abnormalities as determined using objective cognitive tests whose progress was monitored by objective and subjective measures.
The chief limitation is the lack of a control or placebo group.
“Though it is difficult to find a comparable group of patients with the exact same profile of cognitive deficits and brain-related symptoms, studying a larger group of patients ― and comparing them with a wait-list group ― may make it possible to do a more definitive assessment of the NeuroGrow BFP,” the researchers note.
Fotuhi said the “secret to the success” of the program is that it involves a full assessment of all cognitive and neurobehavioral symptoms for each patient. This allows for individualized and targeted interventions for specific concerns and symptoms.
He said there is a need to recognize that patients who present to a neurology practice with a single complaint, such as a problem with memory or attention, often have other problems, such as anxiety/depression, stress, insomnia, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, or alcohol overuse.
“Each of these factors can affect their cognitive abilities and need a multimodal set of interventions in order to see full resolution of their cognitive symptoms,” Fotuhi said.
He has created a series of educational videos to demonstrate the program’s benefits.
The self-pay cost for the NeuroGrow BFP assessment and treatment sessions is approximately $7000.
Fotuhi said all of the interventions included in the program are readily available at low cost.
He suggested that healthcare professionals who lack time or staff for conducting a comprehensive neurocognitive assessment for their patients can provide them with a copy of the Brain Health Index, which is included in the article.
“Patients can then be instructed to work on the individual components of their brain health on their own ― and measure their brain health index on a weekly basis,” Fotuhi said.
“Private practices or academic centers can use the detailed information I have provided in my paper to develop their own brain fitness program,” he added.
Not Ready for Prime Time
Commenting on the study for Medscape Medical News, Percy Griffin, PhD, director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, noted that “nonpharmacologic interventions can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with dementia.
“The current study investigates nonpharmacologic interventions in a small number of patients with ADHD, post-concussion syndrome, or memory loss. The researchers found improvements on most measures following the brain rehabilitation program.
“While this is interesting, more work is needed in larger, more diverse cohorts before these programs can be applied broadly. Nonpharmacologic interventions are a helpful tool that need to be studied further in future studies,” Griffin added.
Funding for the study was provided by the NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center. Fotuhi, the owner of NeuroGrow, was involved in data analysis, writing, editing, approval, and decision to publish. Griffin reports no disclosures.
J Alzheimer’s Dis Rep. Published online June 29, 2023. Full text