What Is Cognitive Brain Damage?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Cognitive brain damage occurs when an injury to the right side of the brain negatively affects a person’s thinking, reasoning, and social communication skills. The right side of the brain primarily controls a person’s ability to think rationally, solve problems, and process information. A person’s short-term memory and interactive behavior are also regulated by the right hemisphere of the brain. When the right side of the brain is injured, a marked decrease in some or all of those skills is usually noted.

One of the primary skills that is affected by cognitive brain damage is the ability to think and reason in a rational and orderly fashion. A person might find even simple problems overwhelming. For instance, he or she might have difficulty figuring out tasks that were once second nature, like how to change a lightbulb, operate a vehicle, or solve a crossword puzzle. A person with cognitive brain damage might have difficulty following step-by-step directions or instructions and might become easily frustrated or confused.

When suffering from cognitive brain damage, a person might find it difficult to concentrate or pay attention for any length of time. He or she might not be able to focus on detailed tasks and might have difficulty processing information. Damage to the right side of the brain can also affect a person’s short-term memory, making it difficult for a person to remember day-to-day events or recent information, further affecting his or her ability to learn and process information.


If an individual has cognitive brain damage, he or she might have difficulty communicating with others and responding appropriately in social situations. That person might not be able to follow a topic of conversation or respond with apropos facial expressions or tone of voice. For example, he or she may speak out of turn, interject random comments, or laugh at inappropriate points in the conversation.

Depending upon the severity of the damage to the right side of the brain, an individual with cognitive brain damage might neglect his or her physical left side. For instance, that person might not brush his or her hair on the left side, might not use the left side of a keyboard, or might ignore food on the left side of a dinner plate. Generally, this occurs because of a spatial disorientation, and the individual does not recognize objects on the left side of his or her perception.

Generally, cognitive brain damage is caused either by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or an acquired brain injury (ABI). A TBI results from an external force, such as a blow to the head or gunshot wound. An ABI is due to internal factors, such as a tumor, an aneurysm, or a lack of oxygen. Either way, the prognosis for rehabilitation and recovery depends primarily on the extent of the damage to the brain.


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