What Is Cognitive Dysfunction?

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  • Written By: Benjamin Arie
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 13 January 2020
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Cognitive dysfunction is a mental condition commonly described as "brain fog." Temporary confusion and problems with concentration or memory are common symptoms. A wide variety of causes can contribute to cognitive dysfunction. Cognitive issues are not completely understood, and are being studied closely by physicians and scientists. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and fibromyalgia are some of the common conditions that are associated with this mental problem.

In the majority of cases, cognitive dysfunction problems are short-term and mild. As the common term "brain fog" suggests, a general feeling of unclear thinking is the most frequent symptom. Patients may feel confused or lost. This dysfunction can also affect memory, and patients often have trouble recalling details of recent events. Long-term memory is not usually impacted by this condition.

Diminished concentration is another common symptom of cognitive dysfunction. In many instances, a person may begin a task and become quickly distracted. A pattern of forgotten tasks can develop, as each new distraction increases the patient's level of inattention. Language ability can be affected, and a person with this dysfunction may lack the ability to recall familiar names or words.


There is no single cause of cognitive dysfunction. Chronic fatigue syndrome is one condition that has been linked to this mental condition. The lack of sleep that is associated with CFS may trigger or exacerbate cognitive problems. Multiple sclerosis has also be connected to brain fog disorders. MS is known to affect the way that the brain communicates with other parts of the body. Research indicates that a significant percentage of MS patients also encounter problems with cognitive dysfunction.

Other health problems such as fibromyalgia can also lead to cognitive problems in some patients. Muscle pain and bodily discomfort are the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, which may contribute to sleep problems. Experts are not certain if cognitive problems are directly linked to illnesses such as fibromyalgia, or if changes in sleep patterns are the true cause.

As of 2011, there is no known cure for cognitive dysfunction, and research is ongoing. The primary method of dealing with this dysfunction is to treat the contributing conditions. For instance, pain relievers may be prescribed for a fibromyalgia patient who also suffers from brain fog. The pain medication itself may not directly improve cognitive issues, but related improvements to the amount of stress or sleep may indirectly help.


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