February 25, 2004

Agency to use technology in effort to help mentally ill

Agency to use technology in effort to help mentally ill (Chicago Sun-Times)

A Chicago-based mental health agency wants to break new ground by using computer technology to help the mentally ill lead richer lives.

Trilogy, a 30-year fixture in Rogers Park and Evanston, will use innovative software to try to help people with severe mental illnesses with memory, concentration and social skill problems that can result from their illnesses.
Severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression, can be treated, and the computer can be an important tool in rehabilitation, said David Daskovsky, Trilogy's clinical director.
Trilogy bought the software, which was developed by doctors and rehabilitation specialists, to "walk" people through exercises designed to help them focus and remember what they've learned.
"We teach classes in skills that people need to live independently -- shopping, budgeting, apartment-living," Daskovsky said. "But if people cannot focus and concentrate, they cannot gain those skills."
"It's a new direction," said Greg Petersen, Trilogy's finance director. "We hope to be a model for other agencies to follow."
The agency's initiative is taking off because of a $35,000 grant in money and material from the Information Technology Resource Center's Accelerator project. The Chicago-based resource center started the Accelerator project this year. The three-year-long project is designed to help 25 local non-profit groups set up networked computers and upgrade their technology so disadvantaged people can gain access to the Internet...

This article brings to mind another article I read in the September 2003 special issue of Scientific American (�Better Brains - How Neuroscience Will Enhance You). In that article, entitled �The Mutable Brain�, science writer Marguerite Holloway elaborates on the remarkable plasticity of human brains in terms of neurogenesis (the growth of new nerve cells) and brain remapping (the brain�s ability to �move� the functions usually taken on by one area of the brain to yet another). She also writes about a controversial scientist by the name of Michael M. Merzenich who is �investigating whether training and games can reverse or ameliorate schizophrenia, autism and memory loss that can accompany aging�. The article further states that:

�As yet, there are no published data to turn to. And Merzenich is not forthcoming about his collaborators either... But if his idea bears fruit, it will be stunning. Merzenich believes that the neurotransmitters that underlie memory can be bolstered during tasks performed while sitting at a computer. �Just as in kids that are having problems with learning and memory and whatever�, he argues, �the machinery is plastic�. And you can almost certainly drive positive changes in the brains of elderly individuals by engaging that machine.� He says he can discuss results soon and that the principle will apply � and is already working � for autistic patients and people with Parkinson�s disease. �We are overwhelmingly dominated by thinking that we are going to fix everything in the brain by drug manipulation or by some change in the status of the physical structure of the brain, because it is deteriorating,� he asserts. �But a computer-directed exercise can be very efficient. Because it can pound your brain in a highly controlled way.�

Reading the article I doubt whether or not Merzenich�s intention with respect to schizophrenia is to attack positive symptoms with computer software (it�s not explicitly stated), but he may have something with respect to cognitive deficits involving memory and concentration problems. I for one would certainly be willing to give any such software a try.

Posted by at February 25, 2004 06:26 PM

More Information on Complementary Schizophrenia Treatments


I need help getting my wife to take her schizophrenia medicine. Please help. If you can, refer me to a Southwest Chicago organization, hospice, half-way house, rehabilitation center, or court that would cause my wife to take her medication.

Posted by: Robert Kenney at September 1, 2006 07:41 AM

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