Tag Archives: cognition

Improving brain function

I often see patients whose brain power is not what it used to be. It’s a common tale with mental illness–it can slow down and blur your thoughts. It’s also a common tale with aging, so brain health should be a topic on everyone’s minds.

There are supplements you can take which may help a bit with memory and cognition: fish oil, some B vitamins, curcumin, acetyl-L-carnitine, huperzine A, vinpocetine, and cocoa flavanols. Don’t go to them looking for a miracle, but you might see a slight boost.

For older people, some forms of choline may help enhance short-term memory and attention, while iron could improve learning and memory in girls with iron deficiency.

Be wary of other supplements boasting brain boosting power. Green tea, Gingko bilboa, and vitamin E have not been shown to be effective.

Beyond pills, there are plenty of things you can do for your brain. Psychology Today has a great article on that topic with links to relevant research. In summary, here’s their list:

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Openness to Experience
  3. Curiosity and Creativity
  4. Social Connections
  5. Mindfulness Meditation
  6. Brain-Training Games
  7. Get Enough Sleep
  8. Reduce Chronic Stress

Go here to read more about each of those suggestions.

A well-functioning brain is critical to good quality of life. Let’s all see what we can do to take better care of our minds!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Brain fog? It could be a symptom of depression

When you think of depression, symptoms like sadness, fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness probably come to mind. Another symptom — one with a lower profile than its companions — is impaired cognitive functioning.

Some depressed people experience difficulty focusing, learning, remembering, understanding, and more. It can be distressing to notice your mental abilities declining.

The good news is these cognitive symptoms tend to improve with treatment. The bad news is they usually don’t disappear. In one study, patients suffering from depression reported cognitive problems 94 percent of the time; that percentage decreased to 44 percent after most symptoms of depression had abated.

It’s a significant decrease, but not the healing depressed people hope to see.

There’s a lot of room for science to come in and figure out what treatment options best improve cognitive functioning in depressed people. That’s why I was happy to see one step in that direction recently.

A group of researchers posed a cognitive test to two groups of rats–one group depressed and the other not. During the test, they measured certain protein levels in the rats’ cells. They found the depressed rats had lower levels of these proteins, which have been previously shown to play a role in the cognitive process.

Knowing what’s going on biologically should lead to better treatment for the cognitive aspect of depression.

Treatment for psychiatric problems is constantly improving, and it’s exciting to watch.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.