Kessler Foundation study shows brain activity changes after cognitive rehabilitation for TBI


Kessler Foundation researchers published results of their TBI-MEM trial, the first study to demonstrate significant changes in cerebral activation after memory retraining in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The article was published by the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. The authors are Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ekaterina Dobryakova, Glenn Wylie and John DeLuca, of Kessler Foundation.

Eighteen participants with moderate to severe TBI were assigned to either the treatment (n=9) or placebo group (n=9). All underwent neuropsychological assessment, cognitive ability assessment and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a learning task before and after treatment. The treatment group was administered the modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT), a 10-session memory retraining protocol based on visualisation and context; the placebo group underwent memory exercises without visualisation or context training.

fMRI findings showed a pattern of changes in cerebral activation in the mSMT treatment group. This is consistent with the researchers’ findings in a prior study of mSMT in patients with multiple sclerosis, which provided the first class I evidence for the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis.

“This is the second study we have conducted that shows significant changes in activation patterns on neuroimaging after behavioural memory intervention,” said Nancy Chiaravalloti, director of neuroscience and neuropsychology and TBI research at Kessler Foundation. “These changes likely reflect increased brain efficiency and decreased task difficulty after training with mSMT. Memory deficits are a major cause of disability after TBI. Identifying effective cognitive interventions is critical to improving quality of life in this population.”