What is the difference between a restorative cognitive training approach and one that is compensatory?

The restorative approach to cognitive training is based on the principle of “brain plasticity,” which refers to the extraordinary ability of the brain to modify structure and function following changes within the body or in the external environment. Computer-based cognitive training programs that require the person to recall sounds or shapes that need to be selected later are thought to be restorative. The large outer layer of the brain, known as the cortex, which is implicated in many important brain functions, is especially known for allowing such modifications. Brain plasticity underlies normal brain function, such as our ability to learn and modify our behavior. In contrast, compensatory strategies involve environmental modifications or behavioral strategies designed to bypass persistent impairments in concentration, memory, reasoning and problem solving skills, and/or other cognitive skills to allow patients a way to achieve desired goals of daily living. Examples include using a day planner, setting alarms on a cell phone, and placing post-it note reminders in one’s apartment. Compensatory strategies help patients to compensate for a cognitive deficit rather than aim to restore the patient’s cognitive functioning either fully or partially to a previous level of ability.

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