When the brain is damaged, like from a traumatic injury, stroke or illness, cognitive functions are interrupted. Cognitive, in the world of neuroscience, refers to the process of thinking, reasoning and how you perceive the world around you. After brain damage it is important to retrain your brain to take over the functions that have been lost or damaged. This is called cognitive rehabilitation, or cognitive retraining.
In cognitive rehabilitation two factors will be addressed:
- Restoring the lost skills
- Compensating for activities that have been impaired
When you enter rehabilitation you are trying to restore your muscle tone through exercise and targeting specific muscles. The same holds true for cognitive rehabilitation, you are trying to restore your brain muscle tone through specific exercises geared at the areas of your brain that have been damaged. It involves exercise that will bring your specific areas back to working order, or circumventing them altogether if they are too damaged and allowing other areas of the brain to pick up their functions.
The areas to be worked on will be attention, memory, concentration, perception, organization, problem solving and judgment. Computer programs have been designed specifically to interpret our visual perception (what we see) and our reflexes. Memory training techniques are employed to help your concentration and enhance your memory. Blackboards, workbooks and puzzles are used to work on math skills. The material should not start out being too difficult, but you want to challenge yourself so it can’t be too easy either.
Real-life situations will be practices — like grocery shopping or meal preparation. Your therapist wants you to be able to “think in your feet” and function under normal situations, so they will tailor the plan to meet the specific needs of the patient — increasing the level of activity as they go along. By adding new activities the patient is not normally used to it will stimulate the brain by pushing it to do more than it normally does. This strengthens the existing brain cells (neurons) and will help to create new ones as well.
There are also compensating techniques that are used in rehabilitation that involves strategies and memory tools to help the patient compensate for their damaged regions. Brain training involves making the brain reroute its normal pathways from the weak ones to stronger ones in order to be able to teach other areas of the brain to compensate. For example, a checklist could actually improve attention skills.
Memory strategies, like word association, visualization, repetition, rehearsal and categorization will help with memory recall. Attention strategies and learning how to focus will also help the patient not feel so out of control as they are working at relearning their skills.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
American Brain Tumor Association: Congnitive Retraining: http://www.abta.org/Becoming_Well_Again_Through…/Cognitive_Retraining/199
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders — Cognitive retraining: http://www.minddisorders.com/Br-Del/Cognitive-retraining.html
Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers — Art-Tech-Cognitive Retraining: http://www.rainbowrehab.com/RainbowVisions/article_downloads/articles/Art-TECH-CognitiveRetraining.pdf
Brain Therapy Center – Benefits of Cognitive Rehabilitation and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation: http://www.brain-injury-therapy.com/services/neuropsychological_rehabilitation.htm