Just a few years ago, experts believed that the brain was like a sealed black box, and you were stuck with whatever nature gave you at birth. Now it has become evident that our brains can keep adapting and developing new abilities throughout our lifetime. This ability to reorganize and create new pathways is called neuroplasticity, and it’s the science behind cognitive training, a tool which can be utilized by educators and health care professionals to supplement and help enhance their therapeutic interactions with their clients. Research has shown that systematic brain training with the help of a “brain coach” can potentially result in the improvement of a number of cognitive skills including attention, working memory, problem solving abilities, reading and, in some cases, psychosocial functioning.
Cognitive training is used by psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and other clinical rehabilitation medicine specialists as a technique within their treatment program to help improve an individual’s ability to function after a brain injury or other neurological event, such as a stroke. The exercises are used as a tool to help achieve targeted therapeutic goals, such as enhancing self-esteem, training frustration tolerance, and developing problem solving strategies. It can also be used in the school setting, where it may potentially ameliorate problems associated with learning difficulties. The goal is to improve memory, attention, perception, reasoning, planning, judgment, general learning, and overall executive functioning. Some research has shown that developing these cognitive abilities can lead, in turn, to improvements in self-awareness, self-confidence, and emotional stability.
Various meta-cognitive coaching strategies that focus on developing coping skills or positive thinking can be applied interactively during cognitive training. The benefit is that the individual through trial and error can learn to apply these new strategies and approaches in order to problem solve how to enhance their cognitive performance. For example, a trainer might help a client to develop the habit of writing down and prioritizing daily tasks or to improve the skills needed to organize and categorize household items or grocery lists by learning how to pause and quickly take notes during an exercise.
There are a number of reasons why the computer is an ideal training partner for exercising the mind. The computer makes it easy for the trainer to customize training and to track progress. It not only provides a wide variety of different types of exercises, both visual and auditory, but also automatically becomes more challenging as the client progresses. Clients will be continually directed to develop their cognitive skills to the maximum of their capabilities. The computer is also non-judgmental and never loses patience! And, perhaps best of all, clients associate computer “games” with fun.