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Child Neuropsychology

A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed

  • I have written a previous post explaining why stem cells could be an important treatment for people with brain injury and disease. In summary the brain cannot repair itself. Stem cells are naturally occurring cells that turn into neurons but are only present in the embryo. The Bush government vetoed research in this area on religious and ethical grounds but Obama has overturned this.

    Recently there have been two interesting studies that show the potential of stem cells for neurology and neuropsychology. They both use human stem cells transported to rats. If these results can be replicated in humans it will transform our world.

    In first study published in PNAS Munjal Acharya and others from the University of California implanted human stem cells into rats that had damaged hippocampus due to radiation. Not only did the stem cells repair the damage they also resulted in restored learning and memory (functions associated with the hippocampus). If this could be replicated in humans we could have a treatment for neuropsychological impairment, which would benefit thousands of children and young people.

    In the second study published in Stem Cell, Jason Sharpe and colleagues from the University of California transplanted human stem cells into rats that were paralysed by a spinal cord lesion. The stem cells repaired the lesion and resulted in improved recovery of forelimb function. Again if stem cells can repair spinal cord injury in humans the benefits would be huge.

    Also although this is not neurological I was also fascinated to see researchers grow part of a human jaw bone using stem cells.

    There is a huge amount of research being undertaken in this area at present (thanks to Obama). The NIH site on stem cells in the US is a good website for following what happens. There are a few human studies- see this on MS, but so far the majority of studies are animals although they are starting to use human stem cells with animals. If these results could be replicated in humans we may be able to repair bones, spinal cords, brains and restore neuropsychological function. Very exciting times!

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  • Our rehabilitation company Recolo is now offering the Cogmed working memory training program. Working memory is the ability to hold information in mind for a short period of time and to be able to use this information in your thinking. Problems with working memory are associated with a number of childhood conditions including ADHD, brain injury and poor academic achievement.

    We decided to provide the Cogmed working memory training in the UK because the research literature on it is impressive. It is effective in improving working memory in 80% of cases. The improvements have been demonstrated in neuropsychological tests, fMRI changes and rating scales. It can also be demonstrated at the neurotransmitter level- see previous post for details. It has been shown to be effective in improving working memory difficulties in children with ADHD and in adults with strokes. Klingberg is the main researcher in this area and his lab website contains copies of all the most important research papers. In particular the 2002 and 2005 papers are important Working memory training has also recently been shown to improved academic functioning in children with low working memory (Holmes et al 2009).

    The program we offer includes computer training using a game format. The game adjusts itself depending on the level of ability of the person training i.e. if the child finds a task difficult it will lower the demand- if child is doing well demands increases. We monitor performance centrally so we can see how the training is progressing. We also provide weekly coaching to ensure motivation The program lasts for 5 weeks (25 sessions). All these features and the research make this training in my opinion unique and different from other brain training programs.

    We can provide working memory training for children from the age of 4 to young adults up to age 25. If you are in the UK and would like to find out more please contact us on 020 7617 7180 or email care@recolo.co.uk or visit our website.

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