Introducing Fit Brains: Cognitive Assessment — a FREE app to measure your brain performance levels & emotional functioning, complete with detailed feedback & improvement suggestions!
Download this app if you would like to test your cognitive abilities in different areas of the brain. After completing the test, you will receive a Cognitive Health Score with detailed feedback & suggestions on 7 brain skills:
Memory: Free Recall
Memory: Delayed Recall
Use the recommendations this app provides to improve your brain health, and train your brain to be stronger with our original Fit Brains Trainer app. You can then re-take the assessment periodically to measure your improvements & compare your historical trends.
I am often asked clinical questions pertaining to traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are two major types of TBI that include closed head injury (CHI) in which the skull is struck and does not fracture. The second type is known as open head injury in which the skull is struck and fractures (split the head open). Sometimes an open head injury is advantageous as it permits room for the predictable swelling or edema that occurs with head injuries. The problem with an open head injury is high risk for infection.
Closed head injuries are caused by a blow to the head from a motor vehicle accident, sports such as football, hockey, and even soccer, falls, and being hit by an instrument or other object. The brain sits in a liquid medium called cerebral spinal fluid and it will move inside the skull with an accelerating and then decelerating force. The brain can be injured at the site of the trauma (coup) and also on the opposite side of the brain as it moves in the liquid medium and hits against the skull (contracoup). As the skull is most rugged in the front and temporal skull regions with a smoother surface in the rear of the skull, it is common to experience cognitive and behavioral changes related to damage in the fronto-temporal region.
Such changes in cognition from a closed head injury typically involve memory, attention, and personality change. It is difficult to predict behavioral and cognitive changes related to open head injuries until the site of the damage is clearly known. Other factors such as loss and duration of loss of consciousness and memory loss that predates the time of the injury (retrograde amnesia) and post-dates the injury (anterograde amnesia) relate to extent and severity of the brain injury.
Treatment for TBI includes medication, surgery, speech, occupational, and physical therapy, and time. Improved function and cognition occurs primarily in the first year post injury, but improvement can continue to occur into the third year. Little is known about the effects of a proactive brain health lifestyle and or the consistent use of cognitive-based mental exercise software on recovery. This is an empirical question that is generating interest and attention.
The brain will heal to some degree, hopefully to a complete recovery, and one should not discount lifestyle for brain health and use of cognitive exercises to help in the process.
The NY Times recently reported on a new study that showed it is possible to improve brainpower. The study demonstrated that training the brain in particular cognitive or thinking processes actually help to improve those particular processes. This should make sense as the brain is a dynamic system that will respond to environmental input.
The resistance to such belief lies in the long held and erroneous position that the human brain is a rigid and fixed system that is somehow set by age five! We now know the human brain has “plasticity” and can be shaped across the lifespan. In fact, your brain does not know how old it is, it simply wants to be stimulated.
New research from the University of Michigan supports the power of brain fitness (e.g. brain games) on the ability of the brain to acquire new information. Our ability to learn new information historically has been labeled “fluid intelligence.” This tends to be information we did not acquire in school and that we have no background exposure. In contrast, information acquired in school that is over learned is referred to as “crystallized intelligence.”
Researchers found that new learning (fluid intelligence) increased with increased exposure to the training stimuli. They asserted that fluid intelligence can increase with appropriate training. They are not sure how long the gains will last after training stops, but gains are made with intervals of 8 to 19 days of training for 30 minutes a day.
While research is catching up on what probably is a very practical and basic reality: the human brain, like many of our systems is influenced by environmental input. In the case of the brain the stimuli tends to be information that is processed from the outside world. Repetitive brain exercise (e.g. brain games) will have an outcome and it is reasonable to think that it will be positive with regard to learning. And yes, there will also be a neurostructural and neurochemical change as well.