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Goal Management Training of Executive Functions in Patients with Spina Bifida: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2013

Jan Stubberud*
Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Nesoddtangen, Norway
Donna Langenbahn
Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York
Brian Levine
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre, Toronto, Canada Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Johan Stanghelle
Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Nesoddtangen, Norway Department of Medicine, Oslo University, Oslo, Norway
Anne-Kristine Schanke
Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Nesoddtangen, Norway Department of Psychology, Oslo University, Oslo, Norway
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Jan Stubberud, Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Bjørnemyrveien 11, 1450 Nesoddtangen, Norway. E-mail:


Executive dysfunction causes significant real-life disability for patients with spina bifida (SB). However, no previous research has been directed toward the amelioration of executive functioning deficits amongst persons with SB. Goal Management Training (GMT) is a compensatory cognitive rehabilitation approach, addressing underlying deficits in sustained attention to improve executive function. GMT has received empirical support in studies of other patient groups. The purpose of the present study was to determine the efficacy of GMT in treating subjects with SB, using inpatient intervention periods. We hypothesized post-intervention changes in scores on neuropsychological measures to reflect improved attentional control, including sustained attention and inhibitory control. Thirty-eight adult subjects with SB were included in this randomized controlled trial. Inclusion was based upon the presence of executive functioning complaints. Experimental subjects (n = 24) received 21 hr of GMT, with efficacy of GMT being compared to results of subjects in a wait-list condition (n = 14). All subjects were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, and at 6-month follow-up. Findings indicated superior effects of GMT on domain-specific neuropsychological measures and on a functional “real-life” measure, all lasting at least 6 months post-treatment. These results show that deficits in executive functioning can be ameliorated in patients with congenital brain dysfunction. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–14)

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Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2013 

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