Core cognition affects your basic functioning such as memory, attention, and everyday interactions in the world. Understanding how your core cognition works can help you protect and improve it.
If you’ve ever noticed a baby learning new skills, like talking or responding to sounds, you’ve witnessed the development of core cognition, it is the set of abilities that fundamentally allow us to function independently in the world. It includes mental activities such as attention, memory, learning, and self-control.
Core Cognition is one of the subcategories measured in the Mental Health Million MHQ (Mental Health Quotient). These core abilities are the building blocks for higher level functioning.
Having healthy core cognition means you can:
- Demonstrate self-control in your thoughts and actions
- Learn and perform new skills
- Formulate language and communicate with others
- Hold important information in your memory
- Focus on basic tasks and notice what’s going on around you
Alternatively, if you have problems in this area, you may:
- Struggle with compulsive behaviors
- Be unable to relax or be still, even when it is required
- Hear, see, feel, smell or taste things that other people don’t experience (hallucinations)
- Have moments of confusion or slowed thinking where you can’t make sense of things
Causes of Low Core Cognition
There are various reasons core cognition might be impacted. There are a number of conditions, such as ADHD, which involve difficulties with attention and focus, one aspect of core cognition. Others conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can also involve difficulties with sensory processing – another aspect. Dementia also often impacts memory and day-to-day functioning while depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are all associated with symptoms relating to core cognition. In fact there are very few mental health and neurological conditions which do not impact core cognition in some way.
Sometimes a more extreme or sudden change in core cognition can be caused by a medical condition or brain injury. If you experience such an extreme change, such as confusion about where you are or what’s going on (or you witness this change in someone else), call emergency services in your area. This can be a warning sign of something more serious, and seeking help right away can make a difference.
If you’ve had no recent sudden changes, but have a particularly low core cognition score on the MHQ (0 or below), you should get an assessment by a medical professional as soon as possible. A specialist can help you determine the cause of the low cognition and address it.
Can I Increase My Core Cognition?
How and if you can increase your score in the short term depends on what’s causing the problem. If you have a previously diagnosed mental health or neurological issue that affects your day-to-day functioning, then you should address and manage that first. Medication and behavioral support from a therapist or other specialist can help you alleviate the symptoms, or possibly simplify areas of your life that are a struggle.
For example, if you are struggling with attentional issues, sometimes medication can address this, as can changes in diet and activity choices. A psychiatrist or therapist familiar with these challenges could also help you simplify everyday tasks, assist with learning new skills, or find help for things that are particularly difficult for you. If you aren’t sure where to access services, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) if you’re in the U.S. .
If you have a positive MHQ core cognition score, there are ways to gradually improve and protect it over time. For example, Harvard Health notes that certain activities that combine physical and mental learning, like tai chi, can boost your brain functioning. Harvard Health also notes that improving physical health, through diet and exercise, can improve brain function. You can also work with your doctor to improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, which contribute to brain health and are all important for physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s also a good idea to continually challenge your brain. Many people know that activities like crossword puzzles and math games can help with brain health and cognition. Look for mental games that are fun and challenging for you.
Core cognition affects all areas of your life and can be impacted by a variety of factors. It’s important to be aware of your core cognition score and seek help if needed.