Bradyphrenia is a medical term for slowed thinking and processing of information. It’s sometimes referred to as mild cognitive impairment.
It’s more serious than the slight cognitive decline associated with the aging process, but less severe than dementia. Bradyphrenia is sometimes, but not always, a sign of an underlying condition.
Bradyphrenia is also different from bradykinesia, which refers to slowed movements.
Keep reading to learn some of the causes of bradyphrenia, how it’s diagnosed, and what you can do about it.
Cognition refers to how you process information, apply knowledge, and remember things. Full cognitive function allows you to focus on tasks, solve problems, and remember the details you need to get you through the day.
Bradyphrenia makes all of these a little harder. It’s normal to forget something once in a while. However, people with bradyphrenia tend to find themselves forgetting things or becoming confused more and more frequently as time goes on.
Common symptoms of bradyphrenia include:
- trouble focusing on a task, such as reading, especially when there’s a lot going on around you
- frequently losing things
- inability to work out a simple mathematical problem
- trouble multitasking or quickly switching from one task to another
- forgetting details, such as the time of an appointment
- trouble giving or following directions for familiar routes
- losing train of thought in the middle of a conversation
- becoming more impulsive, agitated, or apathetic
Bradyphrenia is noticeable, but it might not prevent you from carrying out your usual day-to-day activities.
Many things can cause bradyphrenia, though sometimes there’s no clear underlying cause.
Sometimes, people with mild cognitive impairment show some of the same changes to the brain as people who have dementia, including:
- reduced blood flow or small strokes in the brain
- unusual clusters of plaques and tangles, which are also found in people with Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy bodies, which are protein deposits that are also found in people Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia
Other brain changes associated with bradyphrenia include:
- enlarged ventricles
- shrinkage of the hippocampus
- decreased use of glucose
In addition, bradyphrenia is sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- vitamin B-12 deficiency
Having certain conditions may increase your risk of developing bradyphrenia. These conditions include:
Having the E4 version of the APOE gene, which raises the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease, can also increase your risk.
In addition, certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk, including:
There’s no single test for bradyphrenia. Your doctor will probably begin by asking some questions about your medical history and symptoms. During the exam, they might ask you to perform movements to test your eyes, reflexes, and balance.
They can also use oral and written tests to get a better idea of how well your memory is working and your overall mental function. These tests are usually done in your doctor’s office, and they can take up to several hours.
Depending on the results of your exam, your doctor might also order a complete blood count test to check for any vitamin deficiencies or thyroid issues. They may also use an MRI or CT scan to rule out any internal bleeding, a stroke, or brain tumor.
There’s no specific treatment for bradyphrenia. Instead, treatment usually depends on the underlying cause.
In addition to treating the underlying cause, your doctor might also give you some brain exercises, such as a crossword puzzle, to do at home to “exercise” your cognitive function.
Other things that may help to improve cognitive function include:
- getting regular exercise
- eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables
- staying socially engaged with friends and family
Bradyphrenia refers to a type of mental slowness. While it’s sometimes a sign of an underlying neurological condition, it doesn’t always have a clear cause. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any symptoms of bradyphrenia. They can help to determine what’s causing it and come up with a treatment plan.