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25 September 2014

Study to explore benefits of cognitive training in psychosis

A study with the potential to significantly improve the lives of people living with a psychotic illness through cognitive "brain training" is among six projects to share in nearly $1.4 million of State Government research funding.

Western Australia's Chief Medical Officer Gary Geelhoed said the project would explore a recognised link between cognitive impairment in patients with psychotic illness and their ability to function.

The project is being led by WA Health consultant psychiatrist Professor Alexander John and has received a State Health Research Advisory Council Research Translation Project (SHRAC RTP) grant.

Dr Geelhoed said the study had the potential to benefit patients and their families as well as reduce the public health burden of these illnesses by reducing hospitalisations and emergency department (ED) visits.

"This research will determine whether brain-training exercises can improve cognitive function in these patients on a sustained basis and, in turn, enhance their ability to manage their illness and function at home and in the workplace," Dr Geelhoed said.

"Study participants would be drawn from early intervention programs and undertake a series of computer-based exercises designed around principles of neuroplasticity the ability of the brain to reorganise itself by forming new neural pathways and developed by neuroscientists.

"The exercises are designed to strengthen key aspects of cognitive functioning attention, processing speed, memory, people skills, problem solving and navigational ability.

"Each participant would be independently assessed at the start of the project and six months after completing the program, enabling the researchers to monitor changes in cognitive functioning and other aspects of their wellbeing including employment status and number of hospital admissions and ED visits."

Dr Geelhoed said the results of the study could improve outcomes for people newly diagnosed with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder or mood disorder with psychosis.

In Australia, around 2.5 cases per 1000 population of males and 1.6 cases per 1000 of females aged 18-24 will have been treated for psychosis within the previous month at specialised public mental health services.

Dr Geelhoed said that in the latest round of SHRAC RTP funding, grants of up to $243,000 had been awarded to a diverse range of projects each of which would be completed within two years.

He said grant recipients underwent a rigorous selection process and were to be congratulated on their selection.

For the full list of projects visit the Department of Health's Research Development website.

ENDS

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