Although the term cognition defies easy definition, one might best describe it as
the mental processes involved in acquiring and processing information. This includes
our ability to pay attention to, perceive, remember, and make real world decisions.
Although we have a number of cognitive functions, there are a handful that have
a great deal of influence on our ability to carry out everyday tasks. These "core
functions" consist of the following:
Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on specific aspects
of the environment while ignoring others. For example, imagine you are in a crowded
coffee house attempting to read the morning paper. The ability to focus on reading
while ignoring the conversations of those around you depends on your ability to
pay attention. It is also important for things like finding a friend's face in a
crowd, or noticing another vehicle when merging onto a highway.
Working memory is our ability to temporarily store and manage information used to
carry out complex cognitive tasks such selecting and understanding information and
using that to make decisions and learn. For example, adding numbers in your head
requires you to hold information about the numbers you are adding and what needs
to be done with them, a task that relies heavily on working memory.
Long-term memory is the acquisition, retention of, and ability to recall basic facts,
personal experiences, and skills. This is what comes to mind when most people think
about memory. Long-term memory allows us to recall experiences, facts, and acquired
skills. This is the type of memory that is most affected by old age and dementia.
Dysfunction in long-term memory formation and retrieval is responsible for producing
The term "executive function" describes a collection of brain processes that are
responsible for guiding thought and behavior according to individual's situation.
From a problem-solving standpoint, executive functions allow us to use past information
to generate plans that are essential in our ability to carry out everyday tasks,
such as setting up a monthly budget. Executive functions are also important for
making more complex decisions and are vital to our ability to multitask, for example,
turning a radio station when driving.
Our ability to communicate relies, to a large degree, on our language abilities
and is central to most aspects of our daily life. From making small talk with a
stranger to debating politics with a close friend, our ability to use language is
one of our central cognitive functions.
Visuomotor coordination is what allows us to coordinate our movements with what
we see in the world. For example, catching a ball requires a precise coupling between
the trajectory we see the ball taking and the movement that we make with our arm
to catch it. If our visual input and movements are not well coordinated, we are
likely to miss the ball and might be hit in the face—surely a negative cognitive
outcome! Visuomotor coordination is also important when playing video games since
our ability to perform well requires us to coordinate what we see on the screen
the movement of our hands.
Spatial processing consists of our ability to perceive and interpret spatial relationships
between items in our environment, supporting our ability to carry out tasks such
as navigation. Spatial abilities are vital to our ability to perceive and act on
sources of stimulation in the environment.
Speed of Processing:
Speed of processing refers less to a particular cognitive function than to the efficiency
with which we can carry out other basic cognitive processes. For example, the speed
with which we can attend to items in a scene can aid our ability to search for a
friend in a crowd – the faster we can scan through each individual in the crowd,
the more quickly we will find our friend. Likewise, skill at crossword puzzles depends
on how quickly we can use our memory and language ability to remember and generate
solutions for each word of the puzzle. Speed of processing is vital to intelligence
and a decrease in processing speed may underlie some aspects of age-related cognitive
The games you will find on cognitive media will tax all of these cognitive functions,
making you more mentally agile. We have carefully selected and designed our games
to be fun and enjoyable. We hope you will look forward to your daily training regimen.