Cognition and mental health go arm in arm for your wellbeing

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reports that cognitive function (and dysfunction) is strongly linked with mental health. Good cognitive fitness is linked to good mental wellbeing and protects you against mental illness. On the other side, cognitive dysfunction is a common factor in mental disorders and poor cognition heightens your risk of developing a mental illness.

Why is cognitive fitness the key for mental wellbeing?

Cognition enables us to regulate our emotions and impulses. When our executive function is in a good state, it coordinates our mental processes, making sure they are all well tuned. We feel in control of ourselves and we are able to self-regulate. On the contrary, when cognition is in a weaker state, we may struggle to exercise self-control: we may not be able to inhibit inappropriate emotional responses or negative thoughts; it is hard to resist temptations – even when they have a negative effect for our health, and we cannot refrain from acting impulsively. This can cause issues with social relationships and with the management of our tasks, thus worsening our mental wellbeing.

The link between cognition and mental health can be seen in our brain activity too. The core of our cognitive functioning is situated primarily in the frontoparietal system of the brain, which comprises of both the prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex. This consistently shows impairments linked to mental disease states but can also be negatively impacted by everyday life factors, meaning that everyone can experience some cognitive dysfunction and poor mental health from time to time.

“Not only is the frontoparietal system susceptible to the impacts of both temporal and chronic stress, it is also significantly impacted by factors such as health, mood, and sleep. Feeling sad or excluded diminishes attentional control and impairs reasoning, while happiness has been shown to improve both attentional control and cognitive flexibility.”

Executive Function Skills for Student Success, BMGF 2019

Developing and maintaining a good cognitive fitness with targeted training over time is essential to be mentally resilient and protects you against mental illness.

How can you improving cognition to overcome mental illness?

Research consistently shows that impaired cognitive functioning is associated with a variety of neurocognitive and mental-emotional disorders, including ADHD, conduct disorder, depression, addiction, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

MyCognition has collaborated with the Be Brave Ranch and University of Alberta in Canada since 2014 in supporting children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following sexual abuse. The children have cognitive impairments and mental health disorders linked to their condition. A recently published paper (https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/cognitive-improvements-in-child-sexual-abuse-victims-occur-following-multimodal-treatment-program-as-measured-by-mycogni.pdf) reports significant improvements in children’s cognitive abilities, as measured by the MyCognition assessment, MyCQ, at the end of the multimodal treatment programme lead by the Be Brave Ranch, which includes the MyCognition cognitive training video game, AquaSnap, as a part of the intervention. Previously published results (Silverstone P. et al. 2016) also reported the benefit of the intervention on children with PTSD symptoms, depression and anxiety, thus demonstrating that cognitive deficits occur together with mental illness, but that both are reversible with an appropriate intervention.

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recognises MyCognition combined assessment and training programme as leaders in the field with a scientifically rigorous and unique approach, guaranteeing a tailored and engaging intervention for everyone. Our combined cognitive assessment and training intervention has been validated in clinical trials and has also been adopted into schools, clinics and local health services to help children and adults in improving their mental health. MyCognition have carried out studies in a number of mental illnesses including ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, OCD, and substance addiction.

To learn more about how we can start improving the mental resilience across your school, workplace or local services, or to become an Education or Wellbeing partner with MyCognition, please email martina@mycognition.com.

We are proud of the recognition from the Gates Foundation and look forward to sharing more news about the work we are doing in improving mental health over the coming weeks. Don’t miss our next updates!

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