Why You Should Work on Processing Speed with Stroke Patients

Processing speed deficits are among the most common cognitive deficits patients with stroke experience, along with deficits in attention and executive functioning. Processing speed has been found to be clinically significant, as people with stroke commonly report not being able to engage and complete tasks at a rate that is appropriate for peers their age. Processing speed deficits also interfere with long-term recovery and quality of life, making it essential for therapists to address as part of stroke recovery. This blog post discusses why you should work on processing speed with stroke patients. 

What is processing speed?

Processing speed is a cognitive function that represents the time it takes for someone to understand information and use it to complete a task. We use processing speed when we listen to a lecture, take notes in class, read graphs in a work meeting to make business decisions, and hold conversations with friends and family. People often think of processing speed as a measure of intelligence, but that is not the case. People can be highly intelligent but have difficulty processing speed due to various medical conditions.

Why should you work on processing speed with stroke patients?

In a study with 30 patients with stroke, with 20 patients having right hemisphere damage. In addition to the 30 patients with stroke, 30 age-matched controls also participated in the study. All participants performed a neuropsychological battery over 2-3 sessions which included assessments on global cognitive functioning, depression, processing speed, verbal memory, visual memory, visuoperceptual function, language, expressive and receptive speech, & cognitive flexibility. 

Researchers found that stroke patients performed significantly worse than age-matched controls on all neuropsychological assessments. When looking at the relationship between performance on the processing speed assessment and the other neuropsychological assessments, it was found that performance on the processing speed assessment was significantly correlated with assessments measuring immediate recall, delayed recall, expressive speech, and executive functioning. From the analysis of the study results, the researchers found that processing speed was the cognitive function most related to impairments in other cognitive domains and severity of impairment. 

Because processing speed is related to many cognitive functions, impairment in processing speed often reflects impairment in other cognitive functions. For patients with subarachnoid hemorrhages, processing speed impairments may also result in memory deficits. Cognitive deficits may vary due to lesion location, but nonetheless, processing speed should be addressed as part of cognitive rehabilitation post-stroke.

Conclusion

Stroke often causes people to experience cognitive impairment in various cognitive domains. Most often, patients with stroke experience deficits in processing speed. Processing speed deficits have been shown to be related to deficits in other cognitive functions such as executive functioning, language, and memory. Because processing speed is highly related to performance in other cognitive areas, therapists will want to address processing speed as part of their client’s stroke recovery plan.

Chwen-Yang Su, Yee-Pay Wuang, Yueh-Hsien Lin, Jui-Hsing Su, The Role of Processing Speed in Post-Stroke Cognitive Dysfunction, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Volume 30, Issue 2, March 2015, Pages 148–160, https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/acu057
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin is HappyNeuron Pro's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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