Cognitive impairment is responsible for causing a noticeable and quantifiable decline in a person’s cognitive abilities. The disorder can be significant enough to hamper a person’s regular functioning in society. Dementia, motor skill disorders, amnesia, and developmental disorders are some common cognitive disorders. Alzheimer’s is the most common cognitive disorder, and it affects around 5.1 million Americans (1).
What causes it?
A variety of factors can cause cognitive disorders. These factors may include hormonal imbalances (in the womb), genetic dispositions, or various environmental factors. Common environmental causes that may lead to cognitive disorders are lack of nutrients and interaction to vulnerable stages of cognitive development (specifically infancy). Other common causes include abuse or physical injury. When certain brain areas that determine cognitive function are damaged, either by high volumes of drugs, alcohol, or physical trauma, cognitive dysfunction may occur due to these neurophysiological changes (2).
What are the signs?
Signs of cognitive disorder vary depending on the type of disorder; however, some common symptoms exist for all of them. The most common ones are confusion or identity confusion, poor motor coordination, loss of memory (both short and long term), and impaired judgment.
A few cognitive disorders tend to develop in stages and worsen over time. For example, in Alzheimer’s, the first symptoms include minor signs of forgetfulness. Patients have trouble remembering well-known names or remembering what they did recently. It’s difficult to distinguish between very early stages of Alzheimer’s and normal memory errors. However, as time goes by, the situation worsens. At one point, they start living life in a general state of confusion with some rare moments of clarity.
Emotional imbalance is also a very common symptom of cognitive problems. It’s very frustrating to live with cognitive impairment. People suffering from it often react with emotional outbursts. This makes it difficult for friends and family to help. Many choose to push people away and isolate themselves, worsening the situation. The opposite may also occur, and the person may have dulled or non-existent emotions.
Cognitive problems also have visible outside symptoms. The person affected might appear dazed and confused with a glazed appearance in their eyes. Neurological and psychological cognitive disorders often affect motor coordination. This may lead to unusual mannerisms or a lack of normal posture or balance.
What are the effects?
Short term cognitive disability includes lack of coordination, memory loss, and a state of confusion. Long term effects include loss of declarative memory (forgetting names/significant faces), control over one’s actions, and lack of emotional stability.
To assess if you have cognitive impairment or not, you have to go to a professional. There are many cognitive function tests available on the internet; however, these tests will only give you a general idea about the symptoms. A full medical examination is essential for diagnosis.
Combating Cognitive decline
We’re going to look at one single treatment today, which is light therapy. Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural drug-free therapy where safe amounts of concentrated wavelengths of light (red light in case of cognitive impairment) are delivered to the skin and cells. Red light therapy is already an effective solution to treat anti-aging, muscle health, and joint pain and inflammation.
Recent studies have shown that red light therapy has the potential to improve cognitive and brain cell functions. It helps with memory, reaction time, retention, learning, and executive function. When light is directly applied to the head, the near-infrared and red wavelengths stimulate, regenerate and preserve brain cells and tissues. A good quality light therapy device can penetrate the skull to send photons of light. More metabolic energy is produced as mitochondria are stimulated. As a result, cerebral blood flow is increased, which improves oxygen availability and consumption.
Patients exposed to red light therapy show excellent results. Their reaction times increase, they have better memory, and their mood becomes more positive. Patients also have improved executive functions. Both their attention and short term memory are enhanced.
Red light therapy also helps to improve learning, specifically rule-based learning. Patients also show better reaction time (usually a mean improvement of 23.8 milliseconds). The best part about all of this is that patients have zero adverse effects. So to quickly summarize, the benefits of light therapy include:
- Improved memory
- Faster reaction times
- Better mood
- Improved learning time
- Better executive function
The therapy is also excellent for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. Benefits include improved executive functions, immediate recall, memory, clock drawing, task switching, and visual attention. All of this is achieved with no negative effects.
Cognitive impairment is a severe issue that can worsen over time if not taken care of early on. Red light therapy is by far the safest way to deal with the issue. If you think you’re showing signs of cognitive decline, get checked immediately.