Cognitive-Communicative Problems Following Brain Injury

The brain is responsible for all of our actions, thoughts, moods, and communication. Communication may be verbal or non-verbal and includes listening, speaking, reading, writing, and gesturing to understand and convey thoughts. Cognition includes attention, orientation, memory, organization, problem-solving, reasoning, and judgment.

Cognitive-communicative problems can occur following an acquired brain injury. Brain injury includes traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting from some type of trauma to the head, commonly the result of motor vehicle accidents, assaults, gunshot wounds, and falls. Brain injury can also result from a stroke, anoxia (loss of oxygen to the brain), dementia, and brain tumors.

The potential impact of cognitive-communicative impairments will depend upon the nature of the breakdown. Specific difficulties may interfere with activities of daily living, vocational performance, and relationships. For instance, a person with cognitive-communicative problems may find it difficult to sequence the events of a story correctly or have difficulty understanding the meaning of jokes. Problems may arise with knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate. It may be difficult to interpret a speaker’s facial expression and body posture, resulting in the loss of the true intent of the message. Cognitive-communicative impairments may also result in difficulties with money management, handling medications, keeping track of appointments, etc.

When an individual demonstrates problems affecting any aspect of communication or cognition, a referral to a speech-language pathologist is warranted. A speech-language pathologist, in conjunction with the individual and family, will evaluate to identify goals and develop a treatment plan to address the functional communicative impact. Both individual and group treatment may be appropriate.

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning provides comprehensive evaluation and therapy services on the Evanston campus. Diagnostic evaluations determine the course of treatment, including frequency and appropriateness of individual and/or group therapy.

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning is a unique community resource that merges university research and innovative teaching with clinical services. Experts in the field – faculty who are nationally certified and state licensed speech-language pathologists – direct provision of clinical services, bringing exceptional knowledge and experience to our clients.

For more information, contact us at 847-491-3165 or nucasll@northwestern.edu.