Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Floral arrangement as a cognitive training tool for schizophrenia

It's the hallucinations and delusions associated with schizophrenia that typically attract discussion and research. However, patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia also exhibit deficits in memory and perception and, importantly, the severity of these is predictive of quality of life, social functioning and autonomy. How can these cognitive deficits be helped? Researchers have found some success with computer-based training but patient motivation can be problem. Now a team of researchers led by Hiroko Mochizuki-Kawai at the delightfully named National Institute of Floricultural Science in Japan have tested out the benefits of floral arranging. 'The use of natural materials may reduce tension and anxiety' they predicted.

Ten patients (six men) with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder agreed to undertake four one-hour sessions of flower arranging, supported by staff, over two weeks. The arranging involved following simple written instructions, holding them in memory one at a time, and placing flowers and leaves into the correct slots in an absorbent sponge. Two patients failed to attend; average attendance for the remainder was 3.1 sessions.

Before the intervention, the flower arranging patients' performance on the 'block-tapping' measure of non-verbal working memory was the same as that displayed by ten controls. After two weeks' flower arranging, however, the flower patients' performance had improved and was now superior to the controls. The block tapping task involves observing blocks being touched one at a time and then reproducing that same order from memory. On another test, which involved copying a complex figure from memory, the flower arranging patients were again no better than controls at the study outset but were superior to controls after the two weeks of training (although this was because the controls had deteriorated at the task rather than because the flower arrangers had improved).

This was only a pilot study and it has obvious short-comings including the small sample sizes, the lack of any comparison intervention for the control group, and no way of measuring the impact of cognitive gains on quality of life. However, the researchers were upbeat in their conclusion: 'We believe that the findings of the present study may contribute to the improvement of cognitive rehabilitation in schizophrenic patients'.

ResearchBlogging.orgMochizuki-Kawai, H., Yamakawa, Y., Mochizuki, S., Anzai, S., & Arai, M. (2010). Structured floral arrangement programme for improving visuospatial working memory in schizophrenia. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 20 (4), 624-636 DOI: 10.1080/09602011003715141


Rob Keery said...

This article is free-to-all in full online. Read it here.

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether this effect is unique to flower-arranging, or if perhaps *any* such hands-onny intervention would yield a similar effect.

Stephanie said...

I like this. So much better to work with flowers and not a computer. And probably would have therapeutic effects of its own.

L K Tucker said...

With an incompetent knowledge of what Schizophrenia is or what causes it the significance of training sessions is unknown.

There has been a long list of seemingly effective treatments. Everything from Native American Dance to talk therapy has been used. They all seem to work for the author of the study but fail when attempted by others or have statistically correlative success. (A very few of the subjects improve but not all.)

In 1783 London the mentally ill were put in mad houses but nothing was done for them. They spontaneously recovered without treatment.

How does this study eliminate spontaneous recovery from the effect recorded?


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