What Are Cognitive Functions?

Broadly speaking, cognition might best be described 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 are some of the "core functions" that are measured by BrainBaseline:


Attention is the 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.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Attention":

Executive Function

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.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Executive Function":

Working Memory

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.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Working Memory":

Visuomotor Coordination

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.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Visuomotor Coordination":

Spatial Processing

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.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Spatial Processing":

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 decline.

Here's a list of the assessments BrainBaseline offers that measure "Speed of Processing":

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