Systemic illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, and diseases of the brain and nervous system can affect the way a person feels, thinks and behaves. Neuro-cognitive deficits can manifest as disorders in attention, memory and executive function (ability to organize one’s thoughts, speech and actions).
These deficits can be highly disruptive to the life of those suffering from them. The disabling effects of changes in cognitive abilities may cause psychological adjustment issues with depressive or anxious symptoms.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from a possible neurological disorder, consultation with a neurologist is vital to determine the nature of the symptoms and the diagnosis. The findings of the neuropsychological evaluation are an integral part of the diagnostic procedure. After determination of diagnosis, the neuropsychologist and rehabilitation therapists may be called on to design a cognitive rehabilitation program to improve cognitive, emotional, behavioral function affected by these conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can interfere with memory, personality, and cognitive abilities. An exam may help determine if there is dementia and answer what type it is and at what stage.
Stroke. A stroke can affect behavior, thinking, memory, and other brain functions. Some changes are obvious; some are subtle. An evaluation helps identify stroke impairments that persist.
Traumatic brain injuries. Injuries to the brain can cause a wide variety of symptoms. A neuropsychologist can help determine how an injury affects functions like reasoning or problem solving skills.
Encephalopathy. There are multiple causes of brain damage some may be reversed or modified. They include infections, anoxia, toxins, drugs, liver or kidney failure.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (Minor Neurocognitive Disorder). MCI is a syndrome where cognitive decline is greater than expected for an individual’s age and education level. However, functional ability to perform daily activities is generally intact. There may be subtle changes in your ability to participate in daily activities but these tasks are done independently. Perhaps you now rely on strategies and memory aides such as lists, calendars and planners, or post-it notes. Its identification can lead to preventive treatment by controlling risks such as systolic hypertension. Some individuals remain stable, others my return to normal while others may experience further cognitive decline.
Parkinson’s disease. The same brain changes that cause problems with movement lead to neuropsychological impairment. Individuals with Parkinson’s find that they are easily distracted and disorganized. They find it difficult to plan and complete tasks and may feel overwhelmed. Speech volume may be difficult to maintain and it may be hard to find the words to express one’s self. These changes may simply feel annoying but they may also seriously interfere with getting things done. Frustration, discouragement and anxiety can be triggered. These symptoms can be evaluated and addressed in treatment.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Although this condition may go unrecognized or mistaken for other disorders, it is potentially treatable with symptom relief if caught early. In this condition the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid becomes blocked. The fluid gradually builds up in the brain’s ventricles or cavities causing increasing pressure. Symptoms that occur are progressive cognitive impairment, problems walking and loss of bladder control. Problems with cognitive changes can be evaluated as well as treated.
Multiple Sclerosis. People with MS are also likely to experience cognitive changes. While these changes may flux and flow, with some individuals problems become severe enough to interfere significantly with everyday activities. These concerns should be discussed with the treating physician. Problems with attention and multi-tasking can arise that require careful assessment and treatment by a neuropsychologist.
Cognitive rehabilitation therapy (CRT), is a type of treatment designed to improve neurocognitive abilities such as attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility and planning as well as to improve social functioning. The goal is to maximize the capacity for independent living and, in some cases, the person may resume usual activities. Working with the therapist, an individual treatment plan is developed to address specific areas of cognitive impairment and their impact on day-to-day activities.
The objective is to reinforce, strengthen or re-establish previously learned adaptive behaviors and/or to establish new patterns of cognitive activity and mechanisms to compensate for impairment.
The primary aim of cognitive rehabilitation is to optimize the capacity to function thereby improving quality of life. There are many computer-based brain-training tools available on the Internet. However, the goal of cognitive rehabilitation is broader. Its chief purpose is to promote mastery of skills and discipline that can be used to cope with changing real-life demands. Therapy aims at heightened self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses in order to effect change and to achieve realistic goals. Knowing and understanding clearly what situations may demand and anticipating problems in advance allows the individual to develop an effective plan of approach. Evidence-based methods are employed to attain the best and most satisfying outcome.
Cognitive rehabilitation is not meant to replace medical treatments or psychotherapy but rather to complement their effects. In fact, interdisciplinary therapy, integrative medicine and collaboration produce the best outcome.
At Montclair Memory Clinic, expert presenters conduct a tutorial of the social, psychological, medical, legal and financial needs of patients and their families. What’s more, we provide caregiver support and instruction. This includes:
Cogmed is an evidenced-based online cognitive training program that improves working memory (WM). WM is the use and processing of information received from short-term memory. It allows the brain to juggle several concepts or pieces of information at one time and decide what action to take. Cogmed is designed to improve overall quality of life by successfully addressing difficulties with WM, especially in individuals whose inattention from poor WM interferes with everyday activity.
Cogmed was created to be complementary to other treatments for those who struggle with WM. With an 80 percent success rate, Cogmed is fundamental cognitive training that strengthens function by providing consistent reinforcement, personal support and a finely-tuned difficulty level.
At Montclair Memory Clinic, we are a Cogmed certified practice with coaches trained to effectively execute the Cogmed training program.
For more information on our supplemental Cogmed coaching or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.