Want to know what is cognitive function? Well, cognitive function is a term related to psychology that everybody does not know about. Moreover, curiosity about one’s mental processes and self-cognition always compels people to know more about these fields.
So let us talk about all the different dimensions related to cognitive functions.
1. What is Cognitive Function
We always strive for the reasons behind things and always be curious until and unless we find that reason. So that’s the job of our cognition to understand the things we are seeing, listening to, and experiencing and draw some logical reason from it.
Cognitive functions are the different cognitive abilities that promote different abilities of the brain. These include thinking, decision-making, and remembering.
Our cognition function is responsible for making us aware of our surroundings what’s happening, and how we have to react toward.
All human beings and animals possess cognition by which we first watch, read, and listen to things, and then we process information in our brains to drag out some meaning to understand that thing.
There is no doubt that human and animal brains work differently, and understanding levels also differ in both. However, animals also have cognitive abilities by which they survive and understand their friends and enemies.
2. What Are Mental Processes and How Do They Work?
Mental processes is a broad term that consists of cognitive functions. They are related to the overall functions that our brain can perform for a human being.
They help us in daily life with our mental operations and physical activity. It includes thinking skills, problem-solving skills, intellectual functioning, behavioural abilities, executive functions, etc.
Furthermore, they help the individual to understand, store and retrieve the information when there is a need.
The first thing we do to get any information is to collect the information from the environment, also known as the stimulus.
Our sensory organs help us collect information via our five senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Then, this collected information is further transferred to be perceived.
Example:- A person watching a movie via a sense organ i.e., vision.
Once the sense organs collect the information, our brain perceives that information to understand its meaning. In this stage, information is necessary to be processed further.
Example:- A person understanding the meaning of what he is watching.
Attention is an ability to focus on a particular stimulus/thing by avoiding the other things. It is necessary to do one thing properly without getting distracted.
Example:- A person neglecting all the work to focus on studies.
Motivation is considered to be a self-driving force in human beings that helps them achieve the goals they set. It can be from inside or outside of an individual.
Motivation is very necessary. Otherwise, people will not be directed toward achieving their goals.
Example:- A student is studying hard to achieve a good result; here, the good result is a motivating factor for the student that’s driving him to study more and more.
3. Cognitive Impairment
Impairment is when brain health starts to deteriorate, and some parts do not work properly or are up to the mark.
Due to the growing age, the executive functioning of a person’s brain tends to reduce, mostly in older adults, leading to cognitive problems.
Cognitive impairment is when the person faces difficulty in basic activities like learning a new thing, remembering things or people, and making decisions in their life.
Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to severe. If the impairment is minimal, it will be termed mild, and if the extreme condition is there, it will be termed severe.
When a person has mild cognitive impairment, they can perform day-to-day activities, but their brain’s processing speed use to reduced. When a person has severe cognitive impairment, they cannot perform their everyday work.
4. Memory: A Game Changer
Memory is a storehouse of information and plays a crucial role in everybody’s life, as no one can work without the help of memory.
A person’s memory takes information from the outside world, processes information, stores the information according to a person’s ability in the brain, and recalls the information when required.
Memory works with the cognitive system and helps the brain perform important cognitive functions.
The central nervous system initiates the actions in our body, and when the person doesn’t possess memory from the past, then how they’ll able to conduct present-day works.
4.1. Types of Memory
There are 3 types of memory, and that is:-
4.1.1. Sensory Memory
At the start of this article, we have talked about our five sense organs which collect information from the environment.
Sensory memory stores the information we receive through our senses and keeps the information on hold until it is recognized by the brain as a memory to store.
Examples:- Seeing a cat, tasting different cuisine, listening to music, etc.
4.1.2. Short-Term Memory
Short-term memory is also known as working memory, as this memory type retains the information for a short period, which helps in our day-to-day work.
Working memory usually lasts 15-30 seconds, not more than that, as this memory stores information for that short period. That’s why we need a memory type that can store information more than that.
Example:- what you ate yesterday, where you have kept the keys, etc.
4.1.3. Long-Term Memory
Long-term memory plays a vital role in retrieving information from a distant past as it takes memory from short-term memory and stores it in the form of long-term memory.
Types of Long-Term Memory –
i) Explicit Memory:-
It is a part of long-term memory, and it helps recollect information from the past in the form of facts or events. It includes consciousness while recollecting the information.
Episodic memory is a part of this memory that remembers things like the first day of swimming class or other things.
Example:- A student remembering answers in the exam.
ii) Implicit Memory:-
It is also the retrieval of information, but it happens without effort and while being unconscious i.e., without us being known about it.
Example:- Remembering an event from the past while listening to songs.
4.2. Alzheimer’s Disease
In Alzheimer’s disease, the person’s memory is slowly destroyed, and thinking skills and cognitive abilities are reduced.
Here, the symptoms develop slowly, and then later, it collectively starts developing dementia risk. Brain cells and brain functions are reduced in this brain disease.
The person with this brain disorder faces problems in executive function, difficulty paying attention, and physical activity, and their brain’s information processing speed also declines.
In older adults, there is a higher risk of age-related cognitive decline. In this disease, older adults experience memory loss and difficulty paying attention and paying bills, and brain health also starts to deteriorate.
4.3. Dementia and Memory Loss
This is a collection of various mental illness that affects a person’s cognitive functioning and results in cognitive decline.
In this brain activity, brain health worsens so much that the person’s daily life gets affected.
There are many signs of a person having dementia, like getting irritated early, losing interest in daily life, divided attention, and executive functions.
Memory loss is mostly seen in older adults; in this brain disorder cognition of a person used to deteriorate, and a lack of visual perception is also seen in some cases.
In this disorder, brain health damage and cognitive flexibility use to reduced to the extent that everyday work seems impossible to them.
Cognitive Reserve can reduce the risk of dementia and reduce the impact of traumatic brain injury.
5. Ways to Have a Healthy Memory
Memory plays an essential role in everybody’s life, as in every single work, so having a healthy memory is very important to have good cognition.
- Addictive activities like alcohol, drugs, and smoking affect cognitive health and result in dangerous brain disorders like dementia, Amnesia, and Parkinson’s disease. So these activities must not be performed to have a healthy memory and brain.
- When people age, very common diseases happen, brain blood vessels start to shrink, and cognitive functioning starts to slow down. So having a healthy routine for the brain is necessary to cope with all diseases.
- Meditation is like a magic tonic for every person who wants to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and wants to deal with age-related changes.
- A routine for physical activity in old age helps health problems that are very likely to happen, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. So doing physical activities helps reduce the chances of these diseases.
- Observational studies suggest that we can have healthy memory by having a healthy diet, as what we eat matters the most, and we can also reduce health problems by eating healthy.
- Meeting people develops a sense of belongingness in people as they always know that someone is there to listen to them and help them, so they do not stress too much, and this keeps memory healthy.
- Anger issues are the biggest cause of cognitive problems as when people get angry and everything, it affects their brain cells, and it reduces and, eventually, leads to weak memory.
- The sleep cycle plays a very important role in developing a good memory of a person as sleep is necessary for refuelling the body and brain.
How to Remember Things For a Longer Duration
Everybody faces difficulty remembering things for a longer duration, be it a student, adult, or older adult, and our cognition plays a very important role.
When we try to learn something, we only include one or two sense organs, but for strong memory development, we should use more sense organs.
We can always improve our memories of improving quality by being attentive to what we are doing and experiencing so the memory can be registered properly in our brains.
Various clinical trials have been done on the same thing, and by keeping the brain structure in mind, it is proven that our sense organs play a significant role in developing memory in our brain.
Let’s understand it by using two situations:-
A man kept his keys on the dining table ignorantly, and the next day, he searched for them in the bedroom. Here we can see that the man forgets where he kept it because he abruptly kept it without noticing anything. His crystallized intelligence doesn’t help remind him about the keys.
A man, while keeping the keys, touched the dining table with keys, saw the colour of the table, and heard the sound of keys. The next day he remembered where he kept the keys. That man involved his three sense organs in that work, so he remembered the information.
The involvement of more sense organs helps build a strong memory in the brain, which can be easily retrievable when required.
6. Procrastination: A Mind play
We all have this habit of procrastination which affects certain aspects of our important work because we delay it!
But we don’t know why our brain functions like this which also affects our cognitive performance, so let’s see why this happens.
In the human brain, a defence mechanism system plays a very important role in procrastination, as it keeps stressful things away from our brains.
Whenever some work comes up, which can create uneasiness in the mind, the mind makes excuses to delay that work in order not to trouble the person, but it is not good for the person’s growth as work must be done on time or as soon as possible.
So whenever your mind makes excuses, and you start getting reasons not to do this work now, understand that your mind is playing with you and you should do the job without delay.
7. Denial: A Defense Mechanism
Defense Mechanism is also known as abnegation, which is given by Sigmund Freud and is related to psychoanalysts of psychology.
We all have seen so many cases in which the person doesn’t accept the situation and continuously denies that it ever happened in the first place; mostly, we have seen this type of situation when someone’s close one dies, and they do not accept that.
The defence mechanism avoids the pain and stress-causing events from our brain by straightly denying it, which later creates problems in acceptance.
Observational studies have shown that it creates a protective effect by denying reality, like sudden shocks, accidents, and loss of loved ones.
8. Meditation: Mental Detox
There was so much research has been done on the effect of meditation on the brain, and evidence suggests that meditation has the power to cure mental problems and can improve the cognition of an individual.
Meditation plays an important role in having good cognition and sustained attention for better cognitive performance, and it also helps in dealing with mild cognitive impairment.
Every person possesses great cognitive ability which helps them in executive functions, but sometimes people are left with no energy due to their busy schedule, so they are unable to perform their day-to-day activities.
In such cases, meditation works as an energy booster for people because doing meditation deactivates our sympathetic nervous system which calms our mind.
9. Conclusion – Is it Important to Maintain Cognitive Health?
Today we are living in a world where suicides are increasing day by day, and people are getting more lonely, which affects their cognitive health.
Nowadays, everybody is only concerned about themselves and not others, so we should take care of ourselves and our mental health by having a proper routine, having genuine friends, having a healthy diet, and meditating.
Cognitive functioning fully depends upon cognitive health, so it is important to keep it healthy to have good grasping power and better understanding.
Addiction is the worst thing for our cognitive health and functions as it hinders our cognition and results in cognitive decline.
We all should have a good social group with whom we can spend time and share things, and we should always avoid toxic relationships. When we are with our loved ones, our brain releases a hormone called Serotonin, which makes us feel good and relaxed.
An optimistic approach is necessary for life as we create what we think, so thinking positively plays a vital role, and the one who always thinks negatively ultimately draws negative out of their life.
Sufficient rest and sufficient sleep are necessary for good cognition ability because our brain performs every task, and it’s very necessary to give proper healing time to the brain.
Frequently Asked Questions –
1. Is cognitive function a skill?
Cognitive abilities are brain-based capabilities required to complete any task. Instead of having anything to do with actual information, it has more to do with how we learn, recall, react and, deal with obstacles.
2. What is poor cognitive ability?
A person with a cognitive disorder has difficulty remembering, picking up new information, focusing, or making judgements that have an impact on their daily lives.