Cognitive Health

Cognitive Health Definition

Cognitive health is the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember. It is an important component of brain health. Others include motor function, which is how well a person can make and control movements; emotional function, which is how well a person can interpret and respond to emotions; and sensory function which evaluates how well a person can feel and respond to sensations of touch, such as pressure, pain, and temperature.

Cognitive reserve is the mind’s resistance to damage of the human brain. It indicates a resilience to neuropathological damage. Cognitive reserve refers to the capacity of a person to meet life’s cognitive demands. This capacity is evident in an ability to assimilate information, comprehend relationships, and develop reasonable conclusions and plans. The emphasis here is in the way the brain uses its damaged resources. It could be defined as the ability to optimize or maximize performance. Studies have shown that differential brain networks play a role in both healthy and pathological aging.

Image depicting EEG waves being visualized dynamically in software

Cognitive Health FAQ’s

What is Cognitive Health?

Cognitive health is the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember. Functions such as motor skills, emotional responses, and sensory responses indicate a resilience to neuropathological damage.

Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors are all thought to influence cognition and health. Some of these factors may contribute to a decline in thinking skills and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Environmental and lifestyle factors which patients can control are risk factors for health problems. These can include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and depression, and brain injuries. Studies have shown and agreed on risk factors which can contribute to cognitive decline. These include some medicines, or improper use of them, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and smoking. They can also include drinking too much alcohol, sleep problems, little social activity or being alone most of the time.

Why is Cognitive Health Important?

Cognitive brain health refers to brain function such as attention, learning, memory, language and executive function. This includes higher order functions, like decision-making, goal-setting, planning and judgment.

Studies have shown people from many diverse racial and ethnic groups share a core set of beliefs about what comprises a healthy brain. They most often describe cognitive health as “staying sharp” or being “right in the mind.” They often define it as living to an advanced age, having good physical health, and having a positive mental outlook. They also include being alert, having a good memory, and being socially involved.

Cognitive reserve is an important part of keeping the brain healthy. Think of this as the brain’s ability to improvise and find alternate ways of getting a job done. Just like a powerful car that can engage another gear and accelerate to avoid an obstacle, the human brain can change the way it operates. Cognitive reserve is developed by a lifetime of education and curiosity. Attention to these can boost cognitive ability and help your brain better cope with any failures or declines it faces.

Studies have shown that people with greater cognitive reserve are better able to stave off symptoms of degenerative brain changes associated with disease. A more robust cognitive reserve can also help you function better for longer if you’re exposed to unexpected life events. Events like such as stress, surgery, or toxins in the environment are risk factors for cognitive health. Such circumstances demand extra effort from the brain. When the brain cannot cope, a patient can become confused, develop delirium, or show signs of disease.

How to Improve your Cognitive Ability

Ensuring brain health depends upon regularly seeing your doctor, following her or his recommendations, and managing any health conditions you have. Studies have identified six cornerstones to any effective brain health program for improving cognitive health. These steps include eating a plant-based diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep. Other steps include managing stress, nurturing social contacts, and continuing to challenge your brain.

Together, these steps can result in changes in both your brain’s structure and function. The key word is “together.” These factors are equal parts of a cohesive plan—they don’t work in isolation. Simply eating more fiber or adding a morning walk to your routine isn’t enough to forestall memory loss. Instead, exercise, diet, sleep, stress management, social interaction, and mental stimulation work in concert to yield results.

One hypothesis is that certain activities, done regularly, might help maintain or improve cognitive reserve. The hypothesis suggests cognitive abilities can be maintained or improved by exercising the brain. An analogy is drawn to the way physical fitness is improved by exercising the body. This concept is called cognitive training (also known as brain skills training). It is a program of regular mental activities purported to improve cognitive health or maintain one’s cognitive abilities.

There is strong evidence that aspects of brain structure remain “plastic” throughout life. High levels of mental activity are associated with reduced risks of age-related memory loss. However, scientific critics assert that support for the concept of “brain fitness” is limited. The term is infrequently used in academic literature. It is more commonly used in the context of self-help books and commercial products.

Studies have shown that an important goal to boost mental functions is to build and sustain one’s cognitive reserve. A rough idea of cognitive reserve can be reached by gauging how much mental activities have challenged one’s brain over the years. Factors such as education, curiosity and other activities contribute to the reserve.

How to Maintain Cognitive Health

Managing health conditions is essential to avoiding cognitive health issues. Any effective brain health program for improving cognitive health includes regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and a plant-based diet. Other steps which can provide cognitive health support include nurturing social contacts, managing stress, and continuing to challenge your brain.

Patients can control environmental and lifestyle risk factors by avoiding health problems. Issues like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and depression, and brain injuries are all factors which can interfere with mental functions. Some medicines, or improper use of them, and lack of physical activity can contribute to cognitive decline. Other factors include poor diet, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and sleep problems.

Greater cognitive reserve ensures patients can stave off symptoms of degenerative brain changes associated with disease, even mild cognitive impairment. A robust cognitive reserve can ensure sustained mental functions when exposed to unexpected life events. These factors include stress, surgery, or toxins in the environment. The extra effort these demand from the brain can lead to confusion, delirium, or other signs of disease.

One hypothesis has been proposed that certain activities might help maintain or improve cognitive acuity. The hypothesis suggests cognitive abilities can be maintained or improved by exercising the brain. An analogy is drawn to the way physical fitness is improved by exercising the body. However, the term “brain fitness” is infrequently used in scientific research and published literature. The term is promoted more frequently in self-help books and commercial products. Studies do agree that high levels of mental activity can reduce the risks of memory loss related to aging. This activity often goes hand-in-hand with other healthy habits, such as exercise and stress management. Food for cognitive health includes eating a healthy, largely plant-based diet.

Cognitive vs Mental Health

Cognitive health as a general umbrella can refer to brain health. Mental health is one subset of brain health which patients and doctors should closely monitor to care for their well-being. Cognitive and mental health are closely related within the study and care of mental health. There is a category of mental health disorder which is referred to by the term ‘cognitive disorders.’

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatry Association defines six areas of cognitive function which are important to general health. They include executive function, learning and memory, perceptual-motor function, language, complex attention, and social cognition.

Cognitive neuropsychology (neuropsychology and cognitive health) is a branch of cognitive psychology that aims to understand how neuroscience relates to specific psychological processes. Cognitive psychology examines how mental processes store and produce new memories, produce language, recognize people and objects, and our ability to reason and problem solve. Cognitive neuropsychology places a particular emphasis on studying the cognitive effects of brain injury or neurological illness with a view to understand normal cognitive functioning. This field of study can be distinguished from cognitive neuroscience which is interested in brain damaged patients.

Cognitive Health Test for Mild Cognitive Impairment

There is no specific cognitive health test for mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A doctor can determine whether a diagnosis of MCI is warranted based on self-reported data and a combination of various tests.

Studies have shown, and panels of experts agree that the following criteria are required to warrant a diagnosis of MCI:

  • The patient has problems with memory or another mental function.
  • The patient has experienced cognitive decline over time.
  • The patient’s overall mental function and daily activities aren’t affected. The patient’s medical history shows that their overall abilities and daily activities generally aren’t impaired.
  • Mental status testing shows a mild level of impairment for the patient’s age and education level. Doctors often assess mental performance with a test like the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).
  • The patient’s diagnosis isn’t dementia. The problems that the patient self-reports and that the doctor documents through corroborating reports, the patient’s medical history, and mental status testing aren’t severe enough to be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

Does EMOTIV Offer Products for Cognitive Health?

EMOTIV offers a number of products for neuroscience research, including studies into cognitive health and cognitive training. EMOTIV’s solutions include neuroscience software, BCI software and EEG hardware technology. They can be used by cognitive neuroscientists, consumer research. They can be used for cognitive performance, neuroimaging, and brain-controlled technology applications. EMOTIV’s neuroscience solutions include computational cognitive neuroscience software, BCI software and EEG hardware technology.

EmotivPro is a neuroscience software solution for research, enabling users to analyze EEG data, display the electrophysiologic recordings in real-time and mark events. The EmotivBCI is a brain-computer interface software that can be used to directly implement a BCI within a computer. EMOTIV’s additional tools include brain visualization software BrainViz and brain performance tracking software MyEmotiv.

EMOTIV’s products for cognitive health research are considered the most cost-effective and credible mobile and wireless EEG headsets on the market. For neuroscience research, the award-winning EMOTIV EPOC+ headset provides professional-grade brain data which has been cited in published clinical studies on cognitive health and evaluating pathologies which contribute to mild cognitive impairment.

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