Interventions for Cognitive Impairment: Q&A with the Brain Wave Center
by Mary-Elizabeth Meagher
It’s no secret that we rely on our brains for a number of important daily functions that help us navigate our world. This complex organ enables us to make reasonable decisions, focus and concentrate in our jobs, listen and communicate with others, or even remember where we placed the house keys. It’s easy to take all of this for granted when the brain operates as it should, but what if these cognitive functions are impaired? What challenges would this present, what risks should we be aware of—and what can we do about it?
Many of us don’t realize if we’ve already begun to experience cognitive impairment due to factors in our lives that we might not think about until years later once the damage starts to take effect. For this month’s Community Spotlight, I wanted to turn the lens on these lesser-known causes of cognitive impairment which can manifest or escalate without our knowledge. So I reached out to Gregg Sledziewski, Executive Director of the Brain Wave Center, who was kind enough to offer his expertise in the Q&A discussion below.
Natural Awakenings: What are some root causes of cognitive impairment which the average person might not be readily aware of?
Gregg Sledziewski: Research indicates that cognitive decline is not a single condition, but a response to numerous catalysts such as trauma, inflammation, suboptimal nutrients levels, toxic exposure, hormone imbalances, sleep disturbances or similar issues.
Prescription drugs (such as antidepressants, sleep aids, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers, or blood pressure medications) might also contribute to cognitive decline. Sleep apnea can also lead to cognitive impairment by depriving the brain of oxygen, and low thyroid function is one of the most common hormone issues associated with cognitive decline. Living or working in an environment with mold contamination can negatively impact your cognitive function as well.
Undetected low-grade urinary tract infections could exacerbate cognitive decline in the elderly, and the residual symptoms of COVID-19 have been shown to impair cognitive abilities for weeks—or even months—after being infected.
NA: Can head injuries that took place earlier in life (such as a concussion from playing contact sports in high school) affect cognitive function in later years?
Sledziewski: There does appear to be an association between concussive episodes from sports injuries or motor vehicle accidents and the possibility of neurodegenerative illness, memory problems or other forms of cognitive impairment later in life.
NA: Would you elaborate on the tests and examinations available to assess a person’s cognitive ability and overall brain health?
Sledziewski: Cognitive assessments fall into two main categories. The first is a Psychometric Test which, in most cases, is administered by a psychologist that measure skills, abilities, traits or mental state. The second type of assessment is called Brain Imaging which measures cognitive decline, cognitive impairment and cognitive function.
Some imaging techniques are used to visualize brain structures (CT, MRI) while others evaluate brain function (fMRI, SPECT, PET). The brain wave imaging technologies used at the Brain Wave Center measure and map the brain’s electrical activity (EEG, Brian Mapping and QEEG) to determine whether the brain operates in a state of healthy regulation, or whether it exhibits dysfunctional brain wave activity.
NA: Which treatment protocols do you offer at the Brain Wave Center to help treat cognitive decline, traumatic brain injuries, memory loss and similar issues?
Sledziewski: At the Brain Wave Center, our primary focus is with the brain’s electrical activity because we want to both test and optimize the brain’s performance. Our imaging technology (QEEG Brain Mapping) is used in conjunction with our neuropsychological assessment to evaluate a person’s current functional capacity.
This combination of technologies also allows us to look for any function deficits that might exist. The results are then used to create an action plan to assist our clients in their recovery from cognitive impairments or emotional dysregulations such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
When we combine psychological support services with direct brain training or magnetic stimulation (neurofeedback and TMS), we can enhance the results and assist our clients more effectively. These treatments help restore brain electrical activity back into a state of healthy regulation without the use of medications.
NA: What else you do want readers to know about the risk factors that contribute to cognitive decline, as well as interventions for healing or slowing the effects?
Sledziewski: If you notice changes in your mood or memory, please do not delay an assessment. The earlier we can evaluate and intervene, the more likely we are to see positive changes in your brain health. If there is a history of head trauma or motor vehicle accidents in your life, the effect of these injuries could manifest years later as short-term memory loss, confusion, depression or other related cognitive impairments.
Your nutritional status can also have a critical role in the onset or advancement of cognitive decline by promoting neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. At the Brain Wave Center, we’ll evaluate your nutrient intake to help you avoid neuroinflammatory foods. In addition, as you grow older, it’s common to notice sleep disruption, and if this persists, it can also increase the likelihood of cognitive decline.
It’s crucial to remain both physically and mentally active for as long as possible in order to preserve brain health, so challenge yourself to mind-body exercises on a regular basis. And of course, maintain positive social connections and learn how to manage your stress—we know that chronic stress is a major cause of cognitive decline in all age brackets.
As the Executive Director of the Brain Wave Center, Gregg Sledziewski has been researching and developing techniques for the advancement of brain health since 2012. His main focus is on Brain Map neurofeedback technologies, but the center has recently added PrTMS and a new assessment and therapy clinic as well. At the Brain Wave Center, he has joined forces with a team of physicians, psychotherapists and other specialists in the neuroscience field to make high-quality health care services accessible throughout the Southwest Florida community. The Brain Wave Center is located at 640 S Washington Blvd., Sarasota. For more information, call 941-552-4500 or visit BrainWaveCenters.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced and empowered lifestyle.