Cognitive effects following brain injury

Cognitive skills:

  • executive
  • skills
  • memory
  • information
  • processing
  • visual processing
  • attention.

Attention

The ability to focus on certain aspects of the environment that one considers
important or interesting and to flexibly manipulate that information. The ability to focus on certain aspects of the environment that one considers important or interesting and to flexibly manipulate that information.

Types of attention

Sustained attention (concentrating for long periods)

“My mind wonders when I try
to read; I can’t watch a film the whole way through without getting up.”

Selective attention (ignoring distractions)

“I can’t concentrate on my
coursework if there are noises
in the house; I can’t follow
what someone's saying in a
crowded pub.”

How could you improve your attention?

  • minimise distractions
  • self-monitor your attention and mood
  • write things down
  • pace yourself
  • relaxation and deep breathing
  • physical prompts - countdown timer

Mindfulness brings our attention to the present – it helps us to notice things we would not normally
notice, as we are often on ‘auto-pilot’.

Memory

Ability to keep things in the mind and to recall them at some point in the future.

Forgetfulness is a common problem after ABI.

Think of examples of memory problems from your own experience.

Types of memory:

  • short-term memory
  • immediate memory
  • long-term memory
  • prospective memory.

Memory processes:

  • retrieval
  • encoding
  • retention.

What affects our memory?

  • aging
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • mood
  • grief
  • inactivity
  • attention
  • distraction
  • organisation
  • medication
  • vision
  • hearing
  • alcohol and drug use
  • nutrition.

Internal memory aids

Rhymes to remember:

  • associations
  • mind-mapping
  • repeat something several times to yourself
  • chunk items into groups.

Improve your attention and reduce distractions.

Information processing

Following a brain injury you may find you:

  • take longer to grasp what others are saying
  • take longer to understand/follow directions
  • find it difficult to follow a TV show
  • have slowed reaction times.

Executive skills

  • planning
  • organising
  • initiation
  • self-management
  • problem-solving
  • strategising
  • behavioural inhibition

Strategies

  • remove distraction
  • work at your best time
  • create structure – make a plan, set goals, use external strategies
  • take regular breaks – at least every hour for 5-10 minutes
  • talk to yourself – check that everything is going to plan.

Language

Following a brain injury you may find you have difficulty finding the right word or have difficulty starting or following conversation. You many have trouble with non verbal communication or misunderstand joke or sarcasm.

Strategies

  • remove distractions
  • give yourself time
  • re-read information if you need to
  • ask people to repeat themselves.

Useful sources of information

Powell, T. Head Injury: A Practical Guide
Sullican, C (2008) Brain Injury Survival Kit

Brain Injury Information