The true benefit of pharmacological intervention to improve cognition in schizophrenia may not be evident without regular cognitive enrichment. Clinical trials assessing the neurocognitive effects of new medications may require engagement in cognitive remediation exercises to stimulate the benefit potential. However, the feasibility of large-scale multi-site studies using cognitive remediation at clinical trials sites has not been established.
Patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia from nine sites were randomized to a cognitive remediation condition that included the Posit Science Brain Fitness auditory training program with weekly NEAR ‘bridging groups,’ or a control condition of computer games and weekly healthy lifestyles groups. Patients were expected to complete 3–5 one-hour sessions weekly for 40 sessions or 12 weeks, whichever came first.
The primary outcomes were feasibility results as measured by rate of enrollment, retention, and completion rate of primary outcome measures. Within the 3-month enrollment period, 53 of a projected 54 patients were enrolled and 47 completed the study. Thirty-one patients completed all 40 sessions and all patients completed all primary outcome measures. Preliminary efficacy results indicated that after 20 sessions, patients in the cognitive remediation condition demonstrated mean MCCB composite score improvements that were 3.7 (95% CI: 7.34, 0.05) T-score points greater than in patients in the computer games control group (F=4.16, df=1,46, p=0.047). At the end of treatment, a trend favoring cognitive remediation was not statistically significant (F=2.26, df=1,47, p=0.14).
Multi-site clinical trials of cognitive remediation using the Posit Science auditory training program with the NEAR method of weekly bridging groups in traditional clinical sites appear feasible.