Efficacy of Cognitive Training When Translated from the Laboratory to the Real World

Leanne R. Young, Jennifer E. Zientz, Jeffrey S Spence, Daniel C. Krawczyk, Sandra B. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Research shows that cognitive performance and emotional well-being can be significantly strengthened. A high-performance brain training protocol, Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), was developed by cognitive neuroscientists at The University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth based on 25-plus years of scientific study. Randomized controlled trials with various populations have shown that training and use of nine "SMART"strategies for processing information can improve cognitive performance and psychological health. However, the multi-week intensive training used in the laboratory is not practical for widespread use outside the laboratory. This article examines the efficacy of SMART when translated outside the laboratory to two populations (military/veterans and law enforcement) that received SMART in condensed time frames. Materials and Methods: In two translation studies with healthy military personnel and veterans, 425 participants received between 6 and 10 hours of SMART over 2 days. In a third translation study, 74 healthy police officers received 9 hours of SMART over 3 days. Training was conducted by clinicians who taught the nine "SMART"strategies related to three core areas - strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation - to groups of up to 25 participants. In all three translation studies, cognitive performance and psychological health data were collected before and immediately following the training. In one of the military/veteran studies, psychological health data were also collected 1 and 4 months following the training. Results: In both translations to military personnel and veterans, there were improvements in the complex cognitive domains of integrated reasoning (P <.0001) and innovation (P <.0001) immediately after undergoing SMART. In the translation to police officers, there were improvements in the cognitive domains of innovation (P =.02) and strategic attention (P =.005). Participants in all three translations saw statistically significant improvements in self-reported symptoms of psychological health. The improvements continued among a subset of participants who responded to the later requests for information. Conclusions: The results of translating to these two populations provide evidence supporting the efficacy of SMART delivered in an abbreviated time frame. The improvements in two major domains of cognitive function demonstrate that strategies can be taught and immediately applied by those receiving the training. The immediate psychological health improvements may be transient; however, the continued improvements in psychological health observed in a subset of the participants suggest that benefits may be sustainable even at later intervals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-183
Number of pages8
JournalMilitary Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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