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How traumatic brain injury affects cognition.

Traumatic brain injury can affect cognition in many different ways. It can have an impact on the way people concentrate, learn, memorize details, speak, and even perform problem-solving and related cognitive tasks. Here are some ways TBI affects this area and what can be done.

Cognition, for starters, is the act of knowing and thinking, comprising the ability to understand, choose, remember, and process information. It includes attention and concentration, memory, processing and understanding information, communication, planning and organizing, reasoning, judgment, and controlling impulses.

After traumatic brain injury, a person could have difficulty or inability to focus, pay attention, or perform more than one task at a time. There could be restlessness, propensity for distraction, difficulty completing a task, or problems sitting still for long periods (fidgeting in one’s seat). In this area, attention and concentration can be improved by limiting the distraction and focusing on one task at a time. Practice can be done in attending to simple yet doable activities, and then progressing to harder tasks eventually. Just as important is taking breaks when necessary!

TBI can also lead to issues in processing and understanding information, which involves taking more time to grasp what people are saying, following directions, reacting, or following TV shows or movies. This can be addressed by decreasing distractions, re-reading information as needed, and having the other person repeat themselves or speak more slowly.

Language and communication are also affected, where TBI patients can experience trouble following conversations, finding the right word, understanding sarcasm, or reading others’ emotions. Improvement can be introduced through speech therapy, as communication issues can persist for a long time post-injury.

Dr. Curtis Cripe has a diverse background in neuroengineering. He currently heads the Research and Development Division of NTL Group, for advanced technology for brain and cognitive repair. Read more about neuroengineering on this page.