Brain Health | Institute of Clinical Neuropsychology HKU

Brain Health

    Maintaining brain health is equally important for people of all ages. It might also help in preserving our cognitive function and facilitating healthy aging. Moreover, being aware of some common neurocognitive disorders can be beneficial in helping us detect the need to seek for assessment and rehabilitation.

Keep Our Brain Fit

Brain Training

Psychologists and researchers have found that brain training exercise might be helpful in maintaining and enhancing cognitive function and preventing brain diseases like dementia. These brain training games include computer training programs that are targeted to train specific brain functions like working memory, attention, etc. Research found that these training programmes might be associated with better functioning in everyday life.

Exercise

Exercise does not only help us build a healthy body but hopefully contribute to our brain health. Some research has found that the habit of exercising might be associated with improved cognitive function in young people. As our brain continues to transform and develop throughout our life span, exercise may help increase brain resilience. Researchers believe that the habit of exercising along with cognitive training could be publicized among the public and could serve as preventive measures that help lowering the impact of dementia.

Sleep

When we sleep, most of the organs in our body are also taking a rest, but our brain is still vividly at work. Research found that sleep might have restorative effect and can help with the removal of the neurotoxic waste product that is accumulated in our central nervous system when we are awake. It is also found that sleep might provide a platform to clear off neurotoxic proteins that are involved in neurodegenerative diseases.

Source:
1. Medina, J., Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. 2010: Pear Press.
2. Hall, C., et al., Cognitive activities delay onset of memory decline in persons
who develop dementia. Neurology, 2009. 73(5): p. 356-361.
3. Lee, T., et al., Aerobic exercise interacts with neurotrophic factors to predict
cognitive functioning in adolescents. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2014. 39: p. 214-224

Child and Adolescent Brain Health

The growing brain of children and adolescent could be interrupted by brain disorders that could impair brain development. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are two common developmental problems among children and adolescent.

If a child experiences several symptoms of the above for over half a year, parents could consider seeking professional opinions. Neuropsychological assessment can help identify problems of brain function in children and adolescent (e.g. learning disabilities, developmental delay or abnormal general intelligence. Through therapy offered by the attending clinical psychologist, along with the collaborative effort from parents and teachers, the symptoms and conditions could likely be improved. Details can be found here.

Source: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

Brain Diseases

Brain is a vital part of our body but its proper functioning could be challenged by the following conditions of:

  • Infections
  • Trauma
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Tumors
  • These conditions could affect different parts of our brain and impact impact on our cognitive domains including attention, executive function, learning and memory, language, perceptual-motor skills and social cognition, etc.
     

    Neurocognitive Disorders

    In The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), ‘Neurocognitive Disorders’ has been included as a category to illustrate cognitive impairment due to:

  • Alzhemier’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Parkinson’s disease, etc.
  • Neurocognitive disorders may affect individual’s cognitive and psychological functioning in many ways, for example:

  • Decline in attention and memory
  • Difficulty in finding words to express themselves
  • Behaving socially inappropriate
  • Develop anxiety, frustration or depression due to maladaptive adjustment
  •  
    Patients with different level of cognitive dysfunction may present differently. Among different neurocognitive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common form. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of different stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Neuropsychological screening and assessment can help identify related cognitive deficit. These conditions could be improved through neurorehabilitation and collaborative effort between patients, doctors, and psychologists, etc. For more details of our clinical service, please click here.

    Source: Mayo Clinic

    Neurocognitive Assessment

    Neurocognitive assessment aims to assess individual’s cognitive and behavioral functioning. It involves clinical interviews and standardized testing procedure to examine our brain’s processing speed, attention, memory and executive functioning, etc. Neuropsychological screening and assessment is helpful in identifying specific cognitive and psychological changes in the brain function of patients suffering from brain injury or brain disease. Neurocognitive assessment has been used as diagnostic tools and also serves as the key to pave way for neurocognitive rehabilitation.

    Neurocognitive assessment is recommended when there is a suspected cognitive dysfunction related to neurological disorders (e.g. stroke, brain tumor, epilepsy, dementia, etc.) or behavioral changes (e.g. decline in attention or memory that interferes with daily functioning).