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Aneurysm

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Neuropsychological Treatment After an Aneurysm

Many patients recovering from surgery to repair an aneurysm experience some degree of emotional difficulties and/or cognitive changes. A therapy called cognitive remediation — also known as cognitive rehab or cognitive rehabilitation — can help.

Cognitive dysfunction is a frequent complication of an aneurysm or the surgery to repair it. The aneurysm and the surgery may cause physical changes to brain tissue and can lead to diffuse cognitive deficits, including problems with attention, memory, executive functioning, and information processing. 

Executive functioning problems include difficulty with executing “everyday actions,” such as carrying out a sequence of actions, planning a task, beginning a task, knowing when one has completed a task, or even becoming “lost” while in the middle of a task.  Executive functioning problems are highly related to problems carrying out everyday activities.

An aneurysm may also affect mood and emotions, and this is not simply a reaction to being diagnosed with a frightening cerebrovascular condition. The area of the brain where the aneurysm is located determines what functions are affected. For example, conditions in the left temporal lobe are associated with low mood, but on the right side can produce manic reactions. An anomaly in the frontal lobe will often modify emotional processing and behavior. 

Cognitive remediation is a valuable therapy to help a patient overcome all of these difficulties. Cognitive remediation treatment can teach long-lasting skills that help restore everyday functioning.  Research has demonstrated that cognitive remediation interventions that incorporated elements of memory, processing speed, and attention led to significant improvements in a number of cognitive areas.

The good news is that everyone, even after brain surgery, has intact cognitive abilities and strengths. Cognitive remediation therapy teaches a patient to use those existing abilities to compensate for deficits in other areas. Cognitive remediation treatment incorporates all domains of functioning: emotional, behavioral, and cognitive.

Cognitive rehabilitation is based on the principle of neuroplasticity, meaning that the human brain is not a static organ but can be physically changed. These changes can occur within neural pathways and synapses after exposure to enriched environments. Cognitive remediation provides such an enriched environment.      

Behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes after an aneurysm can be stressful, but with quality treatment a patient can achieve excellent results and a good quality of life.

The Weill Cornell Medicine Brain and Spine Center is pleased to offer several services to assist patients after an aneurysm, including a comprehensive Cognitive Remediation Program that focuses on improving working memory, attention, and focus.  Find out more about the Cognitive Remediation Program, or for more information, contact Dr. Sacks-Zimmerman at 212-746-3356.

We also offer a Brain Aneurysm Support Group; click here for more information and meeting dates.

Reviewed by: Amanda Sacks-Zimmerman, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: November 2020