Frequently Asked Questions

General

Brain Fitness

rTMS


General

What is cognitive training?

Cognitive training is simply a term for the training of one or more cognitive functions. The general word cognitive comes from the Latin word for "think". Cognitive functions include things such as perceiving, remembering, paying attention, resisting distraction, reasoning, and problem-solving.

 

What is working memory?

Working memory is the brain's ability to maintain information in a highly active state, long enough for it to be useful in ongoing cognitive activity. It is often used when you have to keep several pieces of information active at once in order to use them in some sort of task, such as when someone gives you traffic directions that have four or five different steps in them. It's sort of like a mental "workbench", in that the more items you are able to keep activated in your working memory, the greater the efficiency of your work and the complexity you're able to deal with. For more information about your working memory, contact us today.

 

What is memory loss?

Memory loss is the natural decline of memory functions, along with various other cognitive abilities, with age. People tend to peak in their memory capacity sometime in their 20s, and decline steadily thereafter. This generally becomes noticeable to people by their 50s and early 60s.

 

If memory loss happens naturally with age, why should I do anything about it?

There are a couple of answers to this question. First, there are lots of immediate benefits to having good cognitive functioning. It helps people do better at school, career, sports, and hobbies, and to maintain employment longer as they age. Good cognitive functioning is associated with better quality of life. The elderly especially tend to be happier, healthier, and able to maintain their independence longer if they are functioning well cognitively. Second, there is evidence that having had a busy brain during adulthood can protect against the effects of diseases of the brain such as dementias and cerebrovascular disease in old age.

 

Will children with diagnosed learning disabilities benefit from your programs?

Some of them will. Learning disabilities are unique to the individual, and involve different cognitive functions for different people. Some of these functions are known to be trainable, whereas others either are not trainable, or there is not yet sufficient evidence that they are.

 

What about children with ADHD?

There is good evidence that many children - and adults! - with ADHD will benefit from our cognitive training products. Effects on symptoms of inattention, forgetfulness and disorganization tend to be most pronounced. Hyperactivity and impulsivity show smaller effects.

 

Will cognitive training increase my IQ?

There is some evidence that certain forms of cognitive training do in fact have an impact on IQ. More specifically, such training may produce increases in one aspect of IQ, called fluid intelligence, which is important for complex reasoning, logical analysis, and problem-solving. The data aren't 100 percent clear yet.

 

Can I try the program first to see if I like it, before purchasing?

You can book an appointment at Choratech's office and get a "feel" for the software there. Several of the producers of the specific software packages have trial exercises on their websites to which we can direct you, but currently there is no mechanism for doing a "trial run".

 

Brain Fitness

What is brain fitness?

Brain fitness is the ability of your brain to do what you ask of it. Research has indicated that the "fitness" idea is applicable to brains as well as hearts, lungs, and muscles. This is true in the sense that brains can lose their ability to do things due to illness, aging, and simply being out of practice, but also that specific types of focused activity can heighten the brain's ability to do its thing in ways that are significant and lasting.

 

How do I know I need to train my brain?

There are various reasons why you might want to train your brain. What is really being trained isn't the brain as a whole, but specific cognitive functions performed by the brain. People may find that their performance in work or school isn't what they would like it to be, that they are forgetting things a lot as they grow older, or that they are not hearing or seeing things as quickly or as accurately as they would like to. Other people may have a diagnosed cognitive problem such as ADHD or a learning disability, or they may have suffered a stroke or other type of brain injury or illness. If you feel limited by your cognitive ability in one of these ways, then "brain training" may be worth looking into.

 

I have started a brain fitness program. When can I expect to notice results?

Results from some cognitive training programs are noticeable within two or three weeks, but often it takes several more weeks, and even the lapse of a few weeks after training is done, before the changes really begin to be evident.

 

Do the results of brain fitness training last?

Generally speaking, the results of the most intensive training programs do tend to last remarkably well. Research has followed those who have completed these programs for months and even more than a year after they have finished the program, and the results have diminished only slightly, if at all. Generally, the more intensive and focused the program, the more lasting the results are likely to be. At the same time, though, it's a good idea to keep challenging your brain in new ways across your whole lifespan.

 

How can Choratech help me improve my brain fitness?

Choratech can assess your needs through individualized assessment, then match you up with a computer-based cognitive training exercise program and a personal coach to help you through the program. These programs are specifically selected for their high level of scientific validation, and so you can be confident that there's a high likelihood that yours will be helpful for you.

 

Do you offer non-computer based brain training programs?

All of Choratech's programs for brain fitness are currently computer-based. Computers have an ability to deliver stimuli precisely, to track responses, and to adjust difficulty levels that just can't be duplicated by other methods of training. If you don't have a computer, or aren't comfortable using yours, we can loan you one, or help you get yourself set up. Having said that, the very best single thing you can do for your brain and its effectiveness is very low-tech: get regular aerobic exercise.

 

Do you create customized programs for brain fitness?

The products we use all adapt themselves specifically to the individual user, to deliver a customized experience. We also customize in the sense of helping you select a program that is most likely to meet your needs. We ourselves do not yet create any new programs of our own, though.

 

Does insurance cover brain fitness training?

No, insurance does not cover mind fitness training. Personal consultations with Dr. Toman are, however, reimbursable as psychological services.

 

Do I need a doctor's referral for brain fitness training?

No, a doctor's referral is not required for brain fitness training.

 

Will people with mental illnesses benefit from brain fitness training?

Potentially, yes. Some of our products are directly targeted at things like stress, anxiety, and coping. Others are more focused on cognitive functions in the strict sense (such as memory and attention). While improving these may not directly address symptoms of mental illness, it can help to reduce the deficits in memory and attention associated with many mental health problems. Psychotherapy, medication, and Choratech's MindCare repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation are all effective direct treatments for symptoms of depression and anxiety.

 

Why do I need a psychologist for a brain fitness program?

Dr. Toman's expertise comes into play in helping to select cognitive training programs that have a solid scientific basis, and matching them to your individual needs. Choratech also provides coaching services to help you get the most out of your training.

 

Does brain fitness training prevent diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Strictly speaking, there is no evidence currently that cognitive training protects against these illnesses. However, there's plentiful evidence that staying mentally active in general, along with several other lifestyle factors, does protect against dementias such as Alzheimer's Disease. Keeping a fit brain also increases work performance, memory, and quality of life, and allows for more independence.

 

Why is playing Sudoku, word puzzles and other games not enough for brain fitness?

These activities are probably beneficial to some degree, but they are less efficient, flexible and adaptive to the user than computer-based cognitive training products. There are critical ingredients that they lack, such as automatic adjustment of difficulty level to the user's performance and precise timing of the delivery of stimuli to maximize the changes the brain makes to itself in response to training.

rTMS

How does rTMS work?

RTMS, or repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, works by generating a powerful but very small magnetic field that passes through the scalp and skull and directly stimulates the brain tissue underneath, modifying activity in the brain circuits in which that site participates.

 

Who can benefit from rTMS?

The most common use of rTMS is for depression and anxiety. Usually people consider rTMS when they have tried more than one medication for depression and/or anxiety disorders (e.g., OCD, phobias, PTSD, GAD) and have not responded, or had too many side effects. Our MindCare rTMS clinic also treats auditory hallucinations, migraine, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, eating disorders, Parkinson's Disease, and chronic pain.

 

Is rTMS covered by my government or private health insurance?

At present, no Canadian provincial health plan covers the cost of rTMS treatment, but this will likely change in the next couple of years. Every major private insurer in Canada has approved funding for rTMS on a case-by-case basis, so it is worth a discussion with your insurance company. Choratech can provide insurers with scientific data on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of rTMS. Patients from the United States are also welcome, and should check with their own insurers.

 

What does rTMS treatment involve?

Treatment in our clinic is done as a series of daily office visits, Monday to Friday, across two to three weeks. There is an initial assessment meeting with our psychiatrist, who then checks in with the client periodically. The treatment itself is done by a trained technician. It involves sitting in a comfortable chair for about half an hour, twice a day, while the technician holds an electromagnetic coil over a carefully chosen site on your scalp.

 

Are there side effects?

The treatment feels like a moderately strong tapping on your scalp, and can cause mild headache for some people that resolves quickly with ordinary painkillers. There are no other known side effects.

 

How long do the effects of rTMS last?

The effects of rTMS are evident by the end of treatment, and often increase across the following weeks. MindCare's experience has been that many people come back for some "booster" sessions after about five or six months. These booster sessions become less frequent, and require fewer treatment appointments over time.

 

Do I need a doctor's referral for rTMS therapy?

Yes, for rTMS therapy a referral is required from your doctor. We can explain the treatment process to your doctor and provide him or her with the necessary referral forms.