What Is Cognitive Impairment?

Cognitive function declines with age.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Cognitive impairment expresses a huge range of mental deficits from the very minor to the extremely severe in adults and children suffering from a variety of conditions. People can be impaired temporarily, have conditions diagnosed as mild cognitive impairment, suffer from illness creating progressive impairment, or simply have lower levels of ability to learn or remember (as with mental retardation) that will remain constant throughout life. Anyone who is impaired cognitively may lack, to greater or lesser degree, certain “normal” thinking facilities like the ability to remember, learn at a normal pace, adapt behavior to social settings, and process or understand information.

When people discuss brain deficits, they may mean mild cognitive impairment, an actual condition that raises the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs in seniors and typically involves conditions like recurring pronounced forgetfulness. Everybody forgets occasionally, but mild cognitive impairment stretches beyond this to a pattern of forgetfulness that is usually easily recognizable. Not everyone who has the condition, which also may have symptoms like increasing depression or anxiety, develops Alzheimer’s, but it should be monitored when it occurs in seniors.

Ad

Some other forms of relatively mild impairment occur as a result of things like chemotherapy and during periods of life like menopause. The former has sometimes been referred to as "chemo brain" and the latter as "brain fog." Mild deficits in cognition related to body response to chemicals or body chemical changes may cause some errors in thinking, though principally people with these conditions remain high functioning. There are a number of temporary forms of cognitive impairment too, most related to either traumatic brain injury or to conditions like stroke. Many people recover fully as they recover from these conditions.

Very severe cognitive impairment can result from things like stroke or other forms of brain injury or they may present due to certain diseases or conditions. People with retardation lack the ability to perform what would be considered “normal” acts of cognition, and they need great support to function. Progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, and some genetic diseases in childhood gradually strip the brain of its ability to act normally, and over time, impairment worsens.

Given the variety of potential causes, it’s difficult to discuss treatment for cognitive impairment. People with permanent mild to moderate deficits in thinking may respond to interventions, accommodations and some teaching techniques. Progressive illnesses are usually the most difficult to address because there are few treatments available. For diseases like Alzheimer’s, early treatment with certain drugs may help slow progress of the disease.

Temporary causes of impairment, like menopause or chemotherapy, mean most recover cognitive function as time passes and treatment isn’t required because impairment is slight. Recovery from things like stroke may restore majority of brain function, though not always. Those with true “mild cognitive impairment” are usually tested to be certain that they don’t have hormonal dysfunctions like low thyroid and doctors should closely evaluate people showing these signs to make certain the condition isn’t indicating Alzheimer’s.

Ad

Discuss this Article

BigBloom
Post 4

Mind-altering drugs can often have a very negative effect and cause cognitive impairment. The drugs entice people for a short-term high or buzz, but in the long run will cause much difficulty and pain in life.

BioNerd
Post 3

The brain is the leader of the whole body, and as such, it is important to keep the mind in check. Bad modes of thinking or fringe ideas which lead to psychological issues should be recognized as detrimental to the person and his or her community.

JavaGhoul
Post 2

Keeping a strong and healthy brain is as important as keeping a strong and healthy body, if not even more important. Exercising the mind with constant challenges will keep you sharp and up to date to an old age. People with good minds are able to easily do well in life and are stronger against cognitive impairments.

dbuckley212
Post 1

Some cognitive impairments which present themselves at birth are simply an imbalance in brain energy. An autistic person or someone with Aspergers syndrome may have trouble behaving normally in social situations, but may be able to tell you the number of seconds since he or she was born in a quick calculation. There is also considerable excitability involved in certain types of memory and learning with some people who have these conditions.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email