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Cognitive Dysfunction

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Cognitive dysfunction is a frequent complication in patients who have been treated for a brain disease or condition. The dysfunction may be related to either the underlying condition or its treatment (including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy), or both. Any of these treatments may cause physical changes to brain tissue and can lead to diffuse cognitive deficits, including problems with attention, memory, executive functioning, and information processing. Some patients report feeling that their ability to take in information seems to have slowed and their vulnerability to distractions has increased. Some of the same strategies taught in cognitive remediation may also facilitate cognitive functioning in those experiencing age-related cognitive changes, which are different from those of cognitive dysfunction.

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 difficulty carrying out everyday activities.

For more on how cognitive function can be affected by a neurological condition, and how the different categories of functions are related, see What Do We Mean By Cognitive Dysfunction?

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