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Question:

I have read about computer programs that may help schizophrenia by improving neuroplasticity. Can these be helpful, and if so which aspects of schizophrenia are helped?

Answered by: Alice Medalia

Neuroplasticity refers to changes in the structure and functional organization of neurons in the brain, as a result of new experiences.

According to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning, and actions can change both the brain's physical structure (adding cells) and functional organization (adding or removing connections). Computer programs which provide exercises of certain cognitive functions - like attention or memory - are examples of learning activities which, according to the theory of neuroplasticity, can change the structure and physiology of neurons in the brain.

Cognitive remediation is a form of treatment which provides computer based exercises that capitalize on neuroplasticity to restore the cognitive dysfunction that is associated with schizophrenia. In cognitive remediation, people work on tasks to improve the deficits in attention, memory, and problem solving that have been linked to difficulties negotiating tasks of daily living.

Many well designed studies of cognitive remediation find that it is an effective treatment which helps people with schizophrenia not only improve their cognitive skills, but also their daily living skills.