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Attention Training Might Help Stroke Victims
Date:7/23/2009

Program to improve focus got mixed results, researchers say

THURSDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- The inability to focus is a common problem for stroke survivors, and a new study finds they might benefit from attention-training.

New Zealand psychologists evaluated 78 stroke patients who underwent attention process training (APT) and found significant improvement on one test of attention compared to those who had standard stroke therapy, according to a report in the July 23 issue of Stroke.

But the improvement in attention was not accompanied by significant improvements in performance, and no differences were seen in three other tests of attention.

The study is "really important and exciting," said McKay Moore Sohlberg, an associate professor in the department of communication disorders and sciences at the University of Oregon. She and a colleague, Catherine A. Mateer, developed APT in the 1980s when both were at the University of Washington. Mateer, a neuropsychologist, now is at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. They designed APT for accident victims with brain injuries.

"It's an exciting paper in terms of being a rigorous, controlled trial," Sohlberg said. "There has not been a lot of information available on APT after stroke. The positive results suggest that it might be something that is helpful."

APT is a series of exercises designed to improve cognitive function. "For example, you listen for a particular stimulus, a letter or word, and perform an appropriate response," Sohlberg said. "Different exercises are matched to different problems."

The New Zealand study is "a first step to establish whether people who have strokes can profit from APT," Sohlberg said.

"What we don't know from this paper is how well the results generalize to functional tasks," she said. "Does doing better on cognitive tests translate to a better ability to hold convers
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