The Brain Games study: protocol for a randomised controlled trial of computerised cognitive training for preventing mental illness in adolescents with high-risk personality styles.


INTRODUCTION: A broad range of mental disorders are now understood as aberrations of normal adolescent brain development. In both adolescents and adults, executive dysfunction has been implicated across a range of mental illnesses, and enhancing executive functioning may prove to be a useful prevention strategy for adolescents at risk for a range of psychopathology. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This study will consist of a double-blind, randomised controlled trial with a 12-month follow-up period. Participants will consist of 200 people aged 16-24 years who are at risk for a range of mental disorders based on personality risk factors, but have not experienced a lifetime mental illness as determined by a structured diagnostic interview. Participants will be randomly allocated to either an intervention group who complete an online cognitive training programme specifically targeting executive functioning ability or a control group who complete an online cognitive training programme that has limited executive functioning training potential. Superiority of the executive functioning training programme compared with the control training programme will be assessed at baseline, post-training and at 3-month, 6-month and 12-month follow-up. All assessments will be conducted online. The primary outcome of the study will be general psychopathology as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Secondary outcomes will include executive functioning ability, day-to-day functioning and alcohol consumption. All analyses will be undertaken using mixed-model repeated measures analysis of variance with planned contrasts. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics approval has been obtained from the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee (HC15094). Results of the trial immediately post-treatment and at 12 months follow-up will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12616000127404; Pre-results.