What is Cognitive Dysfunction? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:01 What Is Cognitive Dysfunction?
  • 1:13 Symptoms
  • 2:06 Diagnosis & Treatment
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson defines cognitive dysfunction, as well as its causes, symptoms, and treatment. Examples of cognitive dysfunction and how it may be diagnosed are also given.

What Is Cognitive Dysfunction?

Cognitions are thinking skills or intellectual abilities used for perceptions, acquiring, understanding, and responding to information presented to a person. Cognitive dysfunction ,or brain fog, is the loss of these intellectual abilities. This can affect a person's thoughts, memories, and reasoning capabilities. This disorder can manifest as trouble with recalling words, with the ability to do math problems, and with one's focus.

Cognitive dysfunction can be seen in a variety of diseases or disorders. However, the cause has been linked to pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses that affect the immune system. The most severe forms of cognitive dysfunction are seen in diseases such as Alzheimer's, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, depression, schizophrenia, and even fibromyalgia. Some forms of cognitive dysfunction are temporary and improve over time as the disease or disorder begins to improve. Unfortunately, cognitive dysfunction can also worsen without improvement at all.


Cognitive dysfunction may manifest as difficulty in only one or two areas of cognitive abilities. It can also affect several areas at one time. One area most likely to be affected is attention, or the ability to take in and retain information. In its worst form, a person's ability to reason or solve problems becomes a serious deficit. These in turn manipulate our executive functioning, or the ability to plan, organize, and sequence information. Memory and loss of recall will increase as this disorder worsens. These decreases in abilities are neurological, so visual spatial processing, which is recognizing visual patterns; language; verbal fluency; and psychomotor speed, the ability to quickly process/produce written and oral information, can also be affected.

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