Brain Check-up Can Improve Learning

By Christina Sevilla; Center Director and Owner of LearningRx- Denver and Centennial
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We get our eyes checked, our hearts checked, our teeth checked, but what about our brain? Just like the rest of our body, our brain should get a check-up to monitor how well it is processing, remembering, and using information.

In the past it was believed that the brain was a stagnant organ that once developed, did not change. Now we know through extensive research that our brain has plasticity and can grow, change, and improve or decline depending on use. So if you struggle with a cognitive skill there is no reason to just live with the difficulty; instead, get a brain check-up and see what can be done to improve your brain’s function.

What are Cognitive Skills?

Cognitive skills are the underlying abilities controlled by parts of your brain that can make learning, remembering and focusing easier. Some of the skills critical for learning at any age are described below.

Attention: The ability to pay attention to incoming information can be broken into three main types.

  • Sustained Attention is the ability to stay focused on a task for a period of time.
  • Selective Attention is the ability to remain focused even when there are distractions.
  • Divided Attention is the ability to remember information while performing more than one mental activity at once—multi-tasking.

Memory: The ability to store and recall information.

  • Long-Term Memory is the ability to recall information that was stored in the past. Remembering names and numbers, test taking, and spelling all use long-term memory.
  • Short-Term Memory is the ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness often while performing other mental activities. Copying notes, following directions and completing mental math uses short-term memory.

Logic and Reasoning: The ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems. This includes the ability to use deductive reasoning to draw conclusions and determine solutions by analyzing information.

Auditory Processing: The ability to analyze, blend and segment sounds. This is very important in all types of reading, spelling and comprehension.

Visual Processing: The ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images. This includes creating pictures in your mind as well as being able to manipulate images in your brain that would help with mapping, spatial awareness, and comprehension.

Processing Speed: The ability to perform cognitive tasks quickly. This includes the ability of the brain to work quickly and accurately while ignoring distractions.

Brain Check-up: How to Get Cognitive Skills Checked?

Getting your cognitive skills checked is a fairly easy process—much easier to most than going to the dentist! The most trusted test is the Woodcock Johnson III Test of Cognitive Skills. This test will show how the brain works and will not test academic subject matters. It will provide scores about memory, processing speed, and the other skills listed above. Depending on the number of subtests performed, the testing could take less than an hour.

Many hospitals, psychologist offices, and educational consultants can perform the test for a range of fees. LearningRx specializes in cognitive skill testing and subsequent training of cognitive skills if any weaknesses are found from the assessment. LearningRx has a location in Centennial and in Cherry Creek. Check out their website for cognitive skill assessment prices and more information at www.learningrx.com.

Who Should get Checked?

All ages of people can benefit from having a check-up of their cognitive skills completed, though most professionals recommend children wait until around the age of 5 or older to make sure their brain has developed enough for assessment.

  • School age children: If school was a struggle this year, or certain classes seemed much easier or harder than the past, or if your child seems to have more trouble than they should doing tasks that require memory or attention, they may have a cognitive skill weakness. These assessments can be very beneficial for students with ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning struggles.
  • Young adults: Getting ready for college, taking the GRE, or preparing for a challenging career are all times in life that require the brain to be firing on all cylinders. Getting a check-up can pinpoint any areas that might need some improvement to make your future goals easier to attain.
  • Those diagnosed with TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury, whether caused by a concussion, battle injury, car accident, or any other means, can be greatly improved through brain training. Getting cognitive skills assessed can give specific information on areas needing work to help direct treatment.
  • Older Adults: As we age our brains do tend to lose some functioning including memory loss, weaker logic and reasoning skills, and slower processing speed. Getting a brain check-up can give baseline measurements and also pinpoint areas that can cause future problems so they can be strengthened now.

If you or anyone in your family struggles with any type of memory problems, attention difficulties, or other cognitive skill weaknesses, they should have their cognitive skills assessed. Like your teeth or heart, finding and addressing problems early can save you from having issues in the future!

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