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Computerized cognitive training targeting brain plasticity in schizophrenia.


Two important paradigm shifts have occurred recently in the field of schizophrenia research. First, we now understand schizophrenia to be a neurodevelopmental disorder, one that is characterized by aberrant patterns of activation and connectivity in cortical and subcortical neural networks that are present before illness onset and that worsen as an individual progresses into later stages of the disease. Second, we now understand that these abnormalities are not immutable and fixed, but instead can respond to interventions targeting brain plasticity, particularly when delivered in the prodromal and early phases of schizophrenia. In this chapter, we will first describe some of the neurocognitive impairments that characterize schizophrenia, highlighting the developmental course of the illness. We will then briefly review salient features of currently available computerized cognitive training programs that target these impairments. Next, we will present an overview of current research findings regarding neurobiological effects of computerized cognitive training in schizophrenia and how these results shed light on the critical neuroplasticity mechanisms that support successful training. Finally, we will present recommendations for future research to optimize computerized cognitive training programs, with an aim to promoting functional recovery.