Neurocognitive Disorders: Organic Brain Syndrome 

Overview 

Neurocognitive disorders are a group of neural disorders that often lead to impaired brain function. It was also known as organic brain syndrome, describing such impaired mental function, but now the term neurocognitive disorders are used more commonly. 

Usually, it affects the adult generation but may affect the youngsters as well. The resulting symptoms include difficulty in recognizing things and functions. 

Signs of neurocognitive disorders:-

  • Lack of memory
  • Behavioral changes
  • Trouble understanding language
  • Inability to perform daily tasks

These signs may be caused due to pre-existing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. And these neurodegenerative disorders start deteriorating the brain and nerves over time, causing a gradual loss of neurological function. However, neurocognitive disorders can also develop as a consequence of substance abuse or brain trauma. The actual underlying cause can be determined by the reported symptoms and by proper diagnostic tests. So that the healthcare provider will be able to provide you with accurate and effective treatment for the underlying cause of the disorder. 

The long-term interpretation for people with neurocognitive disorder depends on the cause. When a neurodegenerative illness causes neurocognitive disorder, the symptoms get worse over time. While in other cases, the mental function may be temporarily affected and people can easily overcome it and expect an early recovery. 

Symptoms Associated With Neurocognitive Disorders

We have discussed it so far, that the symptoms may vary depending on the specific cause. When the cause of the condition is neurodegenerative disease either dementia, Alzheimer disease, etc the people may experience:-

Other associated symptoms with people with neurocognitive disorders include:-

  • Headaches at the site of brain injury or those with a concussion
  • Lack of concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty in doing normal activities
  • Difficulty in walking and balancing
  • Vision changes

Causes 

Well, the usual cause of the neurocognitive disorder is a neurodegenerative disease which may include:-

Generally in older people, above 60 the main cause of the neurocognitive disorder is more likely to be an injury or infection. 

Conditions that may result in neurocognitive disorders include:-

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of mild to major neurocognitive disorder needs a detailed physical, physiological and neurological examination. Your healthcare provider will use the criteria of diagnosis as mentioned in diagnostic and statistical manual disorders- DSM-5 published by the American psychiatric association, to know if you have the related symptoms with the actual disorder. 

Those diagnostic tests include:- 

Brain scans:- Brain scans including CT or MRI can help in determining if the person has severe symptoms such as stroke, tumor, or hydrocephalus. While a PET scan can help in determining the patterns of brain activity and spotting an amyloid protein found in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Neuropsychological tests:- this test includes reasoning, memory, orientation, judgment and language identification, and attention. 

Lab test:- a blood test can help in spotting issues that could affect your brain function. for example deficiency of vitamin B-12 or underlying thyroid. Spinal fluid is also tested for signs of infection, inflammation, or related symptoms of some degenerative disease. 

Neurological evaluation:- in this evaluation, your all senses and skills will be tested such as memory, visual perceptions, language, attention, attention, balances, problem-solving skills, and more.

Physical examination:- this examination is more on the verbal side when the doctor will ask you health-related questions, symptoms you feel like an individual and if you have any existing disease or relying on certain medications, or if dealing with any side effects or those. 

Psychiatric evaluation:- this will be your cognitive or behavioral examination. The psychiatrist will determine whether you have signs of depression or any other mental condition that is contributing to your condition. 

Risk Factors For Neurocognitive Disorders

There are risk factors for the condition that cannot be changed.

Age:- the risk of developing neurocognitive disorders increases after the age of 60-65.

Genetics:- you are more likely to develop the condition if someone in your family has it or had it some time. Certain genetic mutations are the problem that runs into families affecting a large number of people.

Depression:- well a prolonged depression could be the possible reason for developing the disorder, although it’s not fully understood yet. 

Heart issues:- hypertension, high levels of cholesterol, atherosclerosis- the build-up of fat in your arteries and heavyweight and obesity- all issues increase the risk of developing a neurocognitive disorder.

Mild neurocognitive disorder:– it includes difficulty in recalling memory and some thinking without the loss of daily function. You can say a mild sign of neurocognitive disorder.

Diabetes:- hyperglycemia, when poorly managed can increase the chances of getting such conditions.

Overconsumption of alcohol/smoking:- through a moderate amount of alcohol has some benefits, its overconsumption and abuse could lead to a neurocognitive disorder. The same is for smoking. 

Sleep apnea:- people with sleeping disorders like sleep apnea often deal with reversible memories due to a sudden stopped breathing. 

Prevention

We cannot prevent such neural issues completely but can stick to a good lifestyle and healthy routine which involves a healthy and nutritional diet, good sleep, and avoiding smoking and drinking. Keep your mind busy and active with certain mind games, puzzles, being physically and socially active, and managing your blood pressure. 

Neurocognitive Disorders Treatment

Cases of neurocognitive disorders that are particularly caused by deficiency, metabolic problems, infections, one-time injury, or hypoxia may be manageable. While other cases are non-reversible and curable. Although, some treatments can help in managing the symptoms and gaining quality of life for months or years. 

Lifestyle modifications

People around you that could be your family, friends, or partner can support you in dealing with the neurocognitive disorder and help in communication and recalling memory. You have to be physically and socially active as much as possible. Try to communicate easily and maintain calendars and notes for balancing your memory and plan for the future. Following these measures will slow down the symptom progression and will make the person comfortable and feel normal. A supportive environment would assure him about safety and will boost his confidence. 

Medications

Certain medications usually prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease such as cholinesterase can be given to those people dealing with neurocognitive illness. Cholinesterase will arouse the levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment. To regulate memory and learning, melamine is prescribed as another chemical messenger- glutamate which gets stimulated by taking it. 

Some other medications will help in overcoming the symptoms like depression, anxiety, sleep disorders. 

Other Neurocognitive Disorders Treatments

Environmental changes:- changing the environment place by removing clutter, and unsafe objects, and environmental hazards make it easier for people to focus and function effectively while having major neurocognitive disorder. 

Occupational therapy:- this therapy is basically for managing behavior and prevention of accidents. An occupational therapist would help you in teaching home modifications and coping with various situations. So, the main purpose of occupational therapy is to prevent the person from indulging in something harmful or accidents. 

Relaxation methods:- it’s to relax the person either by music, art, aromatherapy, or body massage. 

Physical therapy:- includes physical exercise for flexibility, strength, and coordination. 

Complications 

This is important to note that complications might occur in major neurocognitive disorders, which includes:-

  • Malnutrition due to disinterest in food and difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • Personal safety issues while driving, cooking, walking, or doing any other function.
  • Pneumonia from choking of food
  • Death, at the late stage of major neurocognitive disorder. 

Conclusion

Neurocognitive disorders are the condition or impairment of the brain and nerves. This disorder often develops due to neurodegenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They are divided into mild to major neurocognitive disorders. It’s not properly curable although some lifestyle management, medications, and behavioral therapies can help in overcoming the symptoms. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the most common neurocognitive disorder?

The most common neurocognitive disorder is Alzheimer’s disease. It is more likely to affect people over 65. Moreover, Alzheimer’s disease often presents with amyloid protein plaque and tangles on the brain.

What are some examples of neurocognitive disorders?

Here are some of the common examples of neurocognitive disorders:-

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-jakob disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus

How serious is major neurocognitive disorder?

Dementia, known as a major neurocognitive disorder involves the reduction in mental ability which is severe enough to interfere with daily life. 

What are the symptoms of neurocognitive disorder?

Symptoms of neurocognitive disorders include:-

  • A concussion or brain injury, that causes severe headache
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty in performing daily tasks like driving, 
  • Difficulty in walking and balancing
  • Changes in vision 

Is neurocognitive disorder a mental illness?

The neurocognitive disorder is described as an impairment of the brain and nerves beyond psychiatric illness, people find it difficult to recall memory and perform daily tasks effectively. However, it usually synonymizes dementia. 

How do you test for neurocognitive disorders?

Well, there are various stages of diagnosis. The diagnosis will be done to know the cause by following physical, psychiatric, and physical evaluation. A blood test and spinal fluid test are also part of the diagnosis. Often the healthcare providers use the criteria mentioned in DSM-5.

How can you prevent neurocognitive disorders?

Here are some ways to prevent neurocognitive disorders:-

  • Diagnose and treat depression 
  • Physical activeness
  • Management of hypertension
  • Healthy diet
  • Avoid bad habits like drinking and smoking
  • Manage your diabetes

What is the second most common neurocognitive disorder?

The second most neurocognitive disorder is a vascular neurocognitive disorder affecting 0.2% of the people aging 65-70 and 16% above 80 years and older according to the report of American psychiatric association, 2013. 

Is major neurocognitive disorder reversible?

Neurocognitive disorders related to head injury may be reversible maybe not. Well depending on the severity of the injury, the thinking is that the person will be able to reverse the disorder by following some treatments over time, or can’t be even with treatment. So chances are no prediction of the result until the treatment begins.

What is major cognitive disorder?

Major cognitive disorder- previously known as dementia is a disorder characterized by imbalanced cognitive functions like memory, language, reasoning, senses, and intellect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *