Episode 32: COVID and Executive Functioning

Below you can view or listen to Episode 32 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

COVID and Executive Functioning 

COVID on the brainListen:



  • Cognitive function following SARS-CoV-2 infection in a population-representative Canadian sample https://tinyurl.com/2p8av6wr
  • Assessment of Cognitive Function in Patients After COVID-19 Infection https://tinyurl.com/nf56m34v
  • Rapid vigilance and episodic memory decrements in COVID-19 survivors https://tinyurl.com/6r29ndya
  • COVID-19 infections increase risk of long-term brain problems https://tinyurl.com/y2ersef3
  • The Lancet reported “Cognitive deficits in people that have recovered from covid-19” https://tinyurl.com/6tbmj8tk
  • BulletMap Academy: https://bulletmapacademy.com/
  • Learning Specialist Courses:https://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/
  • Executive functions and Study Skills Course: https://tinyurl.com/n86mf2bx
  • Good Sensory Learning: https://goodsensorylearning.com/
  • Dyslexia at Work: www.dyslexiawork.com

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    Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

    I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

    This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

    This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

    Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

    Erica, it’s great to be with you again and I know you've got some interesting stuff to share with us what we're going to talk about today.  Erica today we're going to talk about Covid and how it impacts executive functioning.

    It’s been coming up a lot in the research lately. They're doing a lot of research on the long-term impact of Covid and of course there are those individuals that are experiencing something called long covid which are these continuing symptoms that last over long periods of times. And in this particular episode we're going to be really diving into how Covid affects executive functions.

    But according to the U.S. Centers of disease control and prevention these long-term effects are impacting both physical and cognitive abilities. And what they're finding is that it may be impacting as many as one out of five survivors of the illness and some of them have mild symptoms and others have really extreme symptoms.

    That's fascinating because this week I was just speaking to an app developer in a major US tech company, and he's got dyslexia and he was looking for some executive function coaching. And at the end of our conversation he said you know I got Covid, and you know it feels like it's really affecting my mind and really affecting me. Do you have any thoughts on whether Covid is really affecting people? You know through speaking to people but not through the research. I've noticed that people are saying they're getting forms of brain fog and things like that. So it's going to be interesting to hear what the research has to say. How many studies did you actually go and look at here?

    I thought today we would review five different studies and that way we can learn a little bit about the impact. But you know the other thing that's interesting there's another condition that really, it's very prevalent in the United States which is Lyme disease. And I think Lyme disease a lot of these tick-borne disease do a similar or have a similar long-term result where people experience brain fog and other executive functioning difficulties. So I think it will be really interesting to even consider that that there are these diseases or illnesses that we get that do impact cognition. And we're going to talk at the end a little bit about what we can do to help move through that because as we'll discuss later on, there is a study that suggests that it is beneficial to do things and that it will help you to recover. So that's really exciting.

    So let's jump in and talk about the first study. The first study I found was reported in the Lancet and it was called cognitive deficits and people that have recovered from COVID-19. And what they reported in this research is that they had a number of difficulties, one in the areas of attention. So they had a harder time sustaining attention. They also had difficulties with memory so their ability to learn but also to store and then later retrieve information. And then they talk about executive functions at large that many of these individuals that have these lingering symptoms are struggling with planning, remembering as we've already said. But in particular remembering instructions and then juggling multiple tasks. So really what we're looking at is that they're having trouble with working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

    The second study was the journal of brain behavior and immunity and this one was called cognitive function following SARS Covid two infection in a population representative Canadian sample. And what they discovered in this study is that young and middle-aged adults that had Covid reported these lingering symptoms of executive dysfunction, and this was all based on self-reported but also, they gave them some assessments that were task related indicators of executive functioning or actually in general cognitive functioning in particular executive functioning. And what they discovered is that the symptom severity was associated with how severe the COVID-19 was. So if they had a very intense bout of COVID-19 than they were more likely to have more cognitive dysfunction.

    So yeah, it's pretty, pretty intense, isn't it? Makes it a little bit scary, right?

    But I think so many of these things that we can pick up can have these long-term effects. And there are many other ailments that that mimic this as well. I’m thinking of like PANDAS, right? I've worked with quite a lot of students that have had strep throat and got pandas at the same time which is another condition that affects cognition, and they really struggle, and they have to go through some cognitive remediation which I've done with them in the past. So, this is not the only one, it's just that they're doing a lot of studies right now on Covid. So we're seeing this and really experiencing, what the long-term effects are. But it's being studied as we're moving through it.

    So study three was in Nature medicine and it was entitled long term neurologic outcomes of Covid 19. And this is interesting because what they discovered is that people who had COVID-19 or 43% more likely to develop mental health disorders, they were 35% more likely to experience mild to severe headaches. They were 30% more likely to have eye problems such as blurred vision, dryness, retinal inflammation. There are other ones as well. But I picked out the ones that really hit things that could impact executive functioning and then 22% were more likely to develop hearing abnormalities such as tinnitus, which is the ringing of the air. But all of these things would impact executive functioning, because if you're not able to hear things or you've got this irritable sound in the background, it's going to impact your auditory processing, which is going to impact your working memory. If you're not seeing things correctly, again, that's going to impact that sensory input into working memory. If you're having headaches that has a profound impact on your processing ability and then of course any of those mental health disorders and I think they're referring to things like anxiety and other depression is also being highly reported as well. But the one other thing that they did discover is that vaccines reduced by about 20% the risk of long-term brain problems.

    So that's very interesting.

    I wonder. I did have one shot of the Johnson and Johnson and I wonder if that could have helped me in not having more of the long-term effects. So that's interesting. I was a little ambivalent about getting the shocks. I was concerned about the symptoms from the shot and my body definitely didn't like it very much at all.

    How about you? Did you have any experiences? I think you were also vaccinated, weren't you?

    Maybe three now? So I think maybe had three shots now. No, I haven't had covid yet. My wife's had it, my daughters had it twice. My other daughters had it three times. So yeah, everyone around me has had it and I haven't just a bit weird, but I might have had it but not known one of those symptomatic infections of course, which is probably what's happened. I probably had a non-symptomatic infection of it.

    And has anybody experienced any of these cognitive deficits that you're aware of?

    No. The funny thing about the cognitive deficits though is that when these sorts of things happen and you have a big event in your life like Covid which and if it hit you dramatically it's probably hit your work life, it's probably hit your personal life, it destabilizes the boat of your life. If you're sailing along, I like the sailing analogy but you're sailing along, you hit a storm and things can happen afterwards that you just attribute to other things. So for example my wife at the moment who's had Covid a couple of times is really stressed out at work and finding it hard to sleep and huge amounts of responsibility, doing a huge workload etcetera. Who knows there could have been some cognitive effect as a result of covid, but you get over it and you go straight back in and you don't know where these effects coming from, you don't know where to pinpoint it.

    And so that might be an element here where it's kind of like I don't know what caused it, but I just do.

    No my head's overwhelmed and that's something I wanted to sort of bring up a little bit here because when you get more anxious or stressed it often over works your working memory.

    For example I mean if you just simplify it from the point of view of your working memory is like a trade that you carry things temporarily from the outside of your mind into different realms in the house of your brain and thoughts and sometimes you go into your memory and bring stuff back.

    And so you've got this sort of limited tray that can hold three items or seven items. Say a typical brain has 5 to 7 items in their working memory. Someone like me with dyslexia and some executive function difficulties. A.D.H. D. Two or three. My tray can hold three items but if you've got a lot on your brain on your mind, you're constantly holding up one of those two units with something that's just kind of pressing in on your mind. And so you could have a pretty good executive function and you can have a really good working memory. But then 50% of it is just completely occupied by what's preoccupying you. So you start getting anxious because you're dropping things literally dropping things from your mind that you think you are normally used to picking up. Like my wife for example Scott like a mind like a steel trap. I mean nothing gets faster sort of thing. But she's dropping things from her mind all the time. And I'm like you're acting like you're dyslexic you know but it's like the stress is starting to mimic and create a smaller working memory.

    So what your thoughts on that, I mean in terms of health can affect your executive function in a very immediate sense in that your mind is preoccupied with something. You've got distractions like the tinnitus, the noise etcetera. And so these kind of health effects have this indirect effect on your executive function. But then you're also talking here about Covid having a direct effect on the executive function. But I also think anxiety just anxiety can have an effect on executive function, especially in terms of working memory. What your thoughts on that?

    Yeah, anxiety does terrible things and so does depression. Both depression and anxiety, which are definitely long -term symptoms after Covid really do a number on executive functioning. And in fact, I work with a lot of students that have kind of a combination of those three things, right, Executive functioning difficulties, anxiety, depression or even take depression and anxiety and executive functioning. What's difficult is they play off of each other? They spin across each other and complicate things in a way so that the executive functioning problems creates more anxiety and anxiety creates more executive functioning problems. And so when I work with a lot of the students that have anxiety, it's really important that we address the anxiety. It's really important that we address the anxiety and come up with strategies on how to minimize their anxiety, to recognize the anxiety, to work through it, to utilize the pieces of working memory, like their inner voice to calm them down, to use visualization. Because I think that when you have anxiety, you stop using your tools, right? So it's profound. But the attentional piece is huge too because you're constantly distracted.

    So it's not just working memory, it's also inhibitory control and then you do have that and that's kind of what that brain fog is, is that you can't focus, right? And then and then it impacts your ability to be flexible because you just don't have the cognitive space to juggle so many balls. So yeah, it's pretty profound the impact of anxiety on executive functioning as and then of course depression, you can only imagine when you're depressed. You definitely have less of a working memory, you have less attention, you have less space to be flexible.

    So going back to Covid. So basically, I've expanded the scope of this conversation a little bit further to how health in general mental health in general can also affect executive function.

    Zooming back into covid. You have two other studies, we've done three. What did the two others say?

    So there's another study entitled Assessment of cognitive function in patients after Covid 19 infection. And this study looked at predominantly hospitalized patients and found a relatively high frequency of cognitive impairment several months after the patients contracted covid. And what they observed was that they had greater difficulty with executive functioning at large. They also had a slower processing speed. They also had difficulties with categorizing. So, categorizing fluency. How quickly they were able to categorize information memory encoding. So getting information into long term memory which of course goes through working memory and then they had difficulty recalling information from long term memory which also brings in working memory.

    So yeah, so we're definitely seeing a lot of these problems. Now you don't have to worry that everybody's going to have this. It's a percentage. They're saying about one out of five. So, that's a big percentage.

    It is a big percentage. I mean, you're saying 20% of people getting COVID have a period of time after COVID where it affects their ability to get things done is what you're saying.

    It's interesting though, because I wonder if the studies just looked at the fact that people just got behind. I mean, when you get behind then you have kind of come back to the tsunami of stuff to get caught up on. And that in itself creates anxiety.

    So, I wonder if they took any of that into consideration.

    Well, whether they do or not, it's still an impact of Covid indirectly, indirectly.

    Yeah, the impact is still there for the end person.

    What the cause of that impact is whether it's directly physiologically the effect on their mind or the lifestyle consequences or the anxiety that comes from, oh my goodness, I'm so behind or anxiety of I have to isolate myself and oh, I don't want to give it to my family and oh, I'm really struggling with the symptoms.

    I mean, I know when I had Covid, I really, I would say about a month, it was about a month where I just was just not myself.

    But the next study is interesting, and this was done at Harvard, and it's called Rapid Vigilance and Episodic memory. It's in covid 19 survivors. And the study would be that it is, and I love how they bring in episodic memory which is like the episodic buffer which is what working memory.


    It's that tray you were just talking about, and the study revealed some long-term positive outcomes for those that experienced the executive functioning problems.

    So I was wanting to take us here because this is a little bit exciting and not the doom and gloom but something a little shed a little bit of a light on this that they're discovering that there is recovery in memory within six months and that there are improvements in attention within nine months and that they do suggest that some cognitive impairments with covid even widespread are potentially reversible.

    So that's the good news is that it is potentially reversible.

    And I would like to think that if you take it seriously and I think any time you kind of give up and succumb to the symptoms you're going to get worse.


    So if you just lay down and say oh, I feel so terrible I can't do anything, and you don't do anything you're feeding that and over time you will never really recover.

    However, if you decide okay I'm going to beat this and you pull yourself out of bed and you give yourself things to do and you exercise your cognition and you take the right supplements and you eat the right food and you baby your body and you do everything that you need to do, I really believe that you're most likely to recover, but I think there are those people that just kind of succumb to the symptoms and that in itself will be debilitating, particularly if you're elderly when you're elderly, if you don't use it, you lose it very quickly very quickly.

    So I think my message to those particularly that are older and that even that are younger, even when you're younger, if you don't use it, you lose it might take a little bit longer.

    But if used to come to the symptoms for 6-9 months and you're just not exercising your brain or your body, you're just going to get sicker.

    The body needs movement, it needs activity in order to stay alive.

    So, I thought this might be a really nice opportunity for us to talk about the types of support and exercises and things that we can do to get us through this brain fog to get us through these symptoms.

    No matter whether you get whether you're experiencing it through covid, whether you're experiencing it through aging through Lyme disease through pandas.

    You know, don't give up, don't give up fight back, fight back and, you know, I had really severe issues from Lyme disease and I just didn't give up, I just kept pushing, pushing, pushing and eventually I pushed through and I got my cognition back and not only was it better than it was while I was experiencing the symptoms, but I think it's almost better than it was before I even had Lyme disease because I changed my lifestyle and I take much better care of my body and my brain.

    And I'm very intentional.

    It goes back to some of our prior discussions of setting up really healthy practices, healthy routines where we can really optimize our body and our cognition.

    So that's the exciting thing.

    So really invite people to push through it.

    Don't let it place you into a passive state where you'll only get worse.

    So let's review some ideas of things that people can do.

    I think you can push yourself through.

    But on the other side of the coin, you have to be patient, right?

    So you don't want to push yourself so hard that you become helpless because oh my God, it's not working.

    So on the one hand, we have to be really patient with ourselves if we're experiencing it and kind of give in to it and observe it so that we can really fully move through it.

    But also with our loved ones, if our loved ones are experiencing these symptoms, we have to be patient with them.

    We yet on the other hand, we don't want to be feeding their passivity entirely.

    We want to be compassionate, but we also want to motivate them to move through it and give them things to do that will activate the body and the brain.

    Right, what sort of things are practical for people to bring them out of this sort of phase of So we're talking six months to deal with the memory drop and then nine months to see the attention come back to normal.

    It's nice to have a number on it.

    That's quite a big period of time still.


    But understand that these aren't people that were necessarily pushing through, right?

    They may have been more passive.

    My argument is that if you say, all right, I'm going to be actively engage in moving through this and I have strategies.

    Perhaps you can move through it in a much faster pace.

    So this is just what the research is saying.

    This is how long the average person takes to get through it if they're having these symptoms.

    But I'm suggesting don't be average, be above average, extraordinary.

    And the types of things that you can do can be really fun.

    It doesn't have to be a problem.

    You can play board games with your family if you're playing board games that improve categorization.

    All skills like categories, right?

    Or ones that work on processing speed where you have to beat your time.

    Or ones that I'm looking back at some of the things that the symptoms that they suggest from long.

    Covid memory.

    So any kind of memory game that you can do any kind of sequential games so that you're having to sequence information strategy based games have a lot of executive function and components to them, but not only are you playing games, but if you're playing games with family members, you're actually having fun with your family and you have community, then you have support instead of them having to kind of pull you through and you being kind of a drag on the family, you can be having fun playing board games and connecting with family and at the same time improving cognition.

    You can also, if everybody's busy do puzzles, there are all sorts of amazing puzzle books that you can get on amazon or mazes, maze activities, maze activities, help with working memory because it's looking or doing or exercising the visual spatial sketchpad, the specialization, right, and any kind of word searches are great, they're all exercising cognition.

    There are probably 1000 different apps that you could play, that exercise cognition to things like Tetris and then Osmo has all sorts of really fun games that are a little bit more interactive so that the camera, what you do is you set it up so that the mirror is looking at what you're doing so that it can evaluate how you're doing.

    So there are quite a lot of Osmo games that would be really appropriate.

    So it's just a matter of exercising your brain, even if you just pick up and read a book, maybe you're like, oh it's just too hard to read then listen to a book if you're in that sort of middle stage where you're not sort of so unwell or knocked out that you can't do work.

    But what if you're at work, you're at work and you're starting to think, gosh, you know, I'm not thinking as clearly as I did before, I'm not managing to prioritize things as well as I did before schedule things, plan things, project, manage quite as well.

    I'm dropping a few balls here and all of that is executive function.

    What would you recommend to them?

    I would say well first of all take more brain breaks so it may be that you can't hold your attention for 90 minutes anymore, maybe it's only 60 but taking a five-minute brain break whenever you start to lose it and don't hop on your phone because that's not a brain break.

    That means get away from technology, take a little walk around the house, do some jumping jacks, go outside, get some fresh air, do some forward ambulation.

    So yeah, just pay attention, pay attention to be conscious of your cognition and let it guide you on what you need.

    So if you're if you're zoning out that means you need a break or pay attention, say oh wow, alright, so why am I zoning out wow, I haven't eaten today right.

    It could be something as simple as that, so you just need to kind of stop and really pay attention to what you need and drop into your body, how am I feeling?

    Oh wow, my body's kind of aching because I've been sitting so long then stand, right?

    So I think I think that is a big piece, definitely think of it, you know, in the last episode we were talking about my use of Apple Notes.

    Well a few weeks back, I read the book Building a second Brain by Tiago Forte and I really love that book and in many ways a lot of it's to do with executive function, although he doesn't mention it once in the book, he doesn't speak from that perspective.

    Isn't it fascinating when you start hearing seeing people talking about productivity and strategies and things like that and then you you're looking at it from an executive function point of view but they're not, they've never really thought of it in that perspective, They're just thinking productivity and techniques and so forth and they're seeing that the benefits and the effects of what they're doing, but they're not necessarily understanding exactly why those things are working, whereas psychologists have looked back and said this is why those things are working and I just think it's fascinating reading with that perspective.

    It is a function.

    It is and you know also too because you said you know what do you do when you're overwhelmed in those moments.

    I was thinking other things that you could do is you could reach out to your coworkers; you could reach out to your peers if you're a student and connect with them and get them to help you.

    A lot of people are willing to help and use technology.

    We have all these supports around us and we're often just standing on our own, reach out to your community, reach out to the technology.

    So if you're having trouble remembering appointments and you never used to then start to use google calendar or your calendar on your iPhone, there are all sorts of wonderful apps out there that can give you these reminders that as pop ups as audio.

    So there are the tools out there or you can get an executive functioning coach, both, both you and I do that, and we can really assess what your specific needs are and then help you to get the tools and the strategies that you need and then there are even executive functioning activities.

    I have a whole suite of executive functioning activities that people can do that are kind of gamified and just doing a few of those every day.

    Again we'll activate those areas of cognition because we don't want to let it rest too long.

    I just find it fascinating listening to you and thinking about my response to what you're saying.

    So my brain goes straight away to finding technology that can do it for me instead.

    Okay, your brain goes straight to finding ways to remediate the cognition and techniques to remediated, which is absolutely fascinating, and both are important and that's why it's great to have two different perspectives on this.

    I have found Apple notes incredibly useful over the last week or two.

    Okay, so what's interesting if you live in the apple ecosystem, Apple have done like a stealth move over the last few months where they've just increased the usefulness of Apple notes, Apple reminders and apple calendar.


    And these three apps have just emerged.

    It's like they've come of age.

    They are now real heavy hitters in terms of taking notes at the speed of thought.

    And one of the key things I think in dealing with working memory overload is to take notes and executive function difficulties is to take notes.

    And what I mean by taking notes is taking notes of events that you're going to do and note it in your calendar.

    Taking notes of things you need to remind yourself to do and put it into some to do list or reminders app and taking notes of actual notes of things that you think are obvious that you will remember.

    But if your working memory and your mind is a little overtaxed, the tendency is you will drop that and you won't just kind of fade away.

    It will just be deleted by your working memory.

    Your working memory will just drop it saying, oh that's not important and it won't go to your short term or long-term memory when you think obviously that's important.

    I'm not going to forget that.

    But you do.

    And so what I've been doing very intentionally over the last 20 days is I've said to myself right I'm going to decide to remember everything important and I'm like without improving my memory now you might balk at this Erica because I know I can improve my memory.


    I can remember a 52 deck of cards.

    I can memorize 52 cards.

    I can put them in or Order and tell you which is the 12th card if I really wanted to have done in the past, I can't do it right now.

    Takes too much effort.

    I don't need to do that.

    I don't need to improve my memory when I've got a photographic memory in my pocket.

    But it's only a photographic memory if you can actually recall the information other than that it's just a storage device and there's a huge difference between storing information and having a memory.

    And so what I would propose is some of you might want to think about building a digital memory quite intentionally.

    So it's something that you can take like with Apple notes.

    I've just been blown away by this Erica like I take a photograph and then used to take a photograph and I put it into my camera roll.

    I'd be on my website, and I take a bookmark, I would take a screenshot and they would, all this information is scattered everywhere on the hard drive of my various devices, and I can't often find it to be quite honest, you know, because you don't take the time to file it carefully in a hierarchy.

    Oh, folder structure and way too disorganized for that.

    But if you pull it all into one place like Apple notes or whatever, your equivalent is one place, all the photos to remind you of things, all the little checklists, all the bookmarks from your websites, little video reminders, audio notes, et cetera.

    And you pull it all into one place and you start searching for it in there or finding it and recalling it within Apple notes.

    It's actually quite remarkable what it does to your brain because once your brain starts to think oh it's okay, I'm going to be able to find that and it starts to trust your digital memory a bit more than what you've had before, which is a scattered hard drive.

    You actually start relaxing in your mind a lot more and start saying, oh it's okay, I've got a note of that.

    I can let go of it and I think there's a lot of people who have never really needed to do that before because they could rely on their personal memory and their natural executive function but now it's compromised in somewhere by health or by anxiety or stress or overwork or just overwhelm of information.

    They then start saying, gosh I've got to have a much more robust way of taking notes, keeping my reminders, and remembering the things I'm going to do sound super simple and if you've got dyslexia or A.D.H.D.

    Or executive function difficulties as a default you've had to put some of those things in place and if you haven’t, you're finding your life starts to you know break down and deteriorate and start letting people down, but you start putting those strategies in place.

    So the irony is often people with dyslexia or A.D.H.D.

    Or executive function difficulties are more organized than the typical person often because they've just said I've had to put in strategies in place to make me organized and then they just push on and it becomes so robust, they're more organized.

    Like you're one of those people Erica you're more organized than the typical person whereas naturally you wouldn't have been as organized but you are definitely way more organized because you put in those systems much more intention.

    You've had two and I'm having to as well and so highly recommend becoming intentional about using the assistive technology that's in your iPhone and I mean iPhone and I don't mean I android and this is a bit controversial, okay and some people will shout me down right now, how dare you give fame android.

    Well, let me just go into a little rant here because there's something about being able to do things at the speed of thought that is so important, that is getting to the place with the Apple devices you can pick up your phone and carry on from what you were doing on your computer, you can leave a voice note on Siri on your phone and there it is on your iPad or on your laptop, there's the synchronization and the fluidity of it.

    So much of it instead of having two clicks to get to what you're wanting, and you've just used up some of your working memory clicking to this and I need to click to that and then you've lost your train of thought, oh gosh, what have I got to do?

    But the effortlessness of getting information into this digital memory with the IOS system has just gone to a new level probably in the last six months and it's just incredible how you can use voice to text, text to voice and bypass a lot of the clicking and just get it straight out your head into a note and empty your working memory.

    So you've got head space for the next thought or the next part of the conversation.

    Anyway, my rant is over.

    No, I appreciate it and I personally agree with you, but I also know that there are those people that love Andrew and they've learned to use android system the way you've learned to use the Apple system and it works better for their brain.

    But I would say that my brain and your brain are much more in tune with Apple.

    So I agree with you.

    But I think I definitely have some interesting thoughts on what you've said because I think you were thinking well Erica might not really agree with this because again, I'm into cognitive therapy, but what you're describing is a form of cognitive therapy.

    It feels like it yes, describe to me what parts of it because I know it feels like it and I'm kind of seeing parts of it where it is therapy, but I'm it's this unconscious competence that's starting to come.

    I'd love to hear your take on that.

    So, you know, I think that when we use these technologies, they train our brain how to think so I can say that my brain without the support and the use of all these organizational devices was kind of like a messy room.

    It was just random whether I was going to be able to access the information or not because I had a messy filing cabinet, things were just thrown in there.

    Now what I've learned to do by being highly organized and believe me, I start to go back to that messy room.

    My desktop on my computer is a messy room right now and then I have to say, all right, it's time to get it back into order.

    But the technology helps me to do that.

    It helps me to whether it's alphabetize ng the stuff or finding different things, but I think, you know, having someone that can really help you come up with and you do that big time how to use the technology tools to assist the brain.

    Because if we're organizing things on our computers then we're showing our brain how to organize the information that we're encoding.

    So now all of a sudden, your desktop does not have to reflect your messy brain.

    Your desktop can actually be ordering and organizing the content so that your brain is organized and ordered, and it all depends on how you use it.

    If you use it in a way that you're completely passive and you're not paying attention to how the things are organized and you're not encoding the information the way you have presented it through technology, then it will actually be not helpful and can damage your brain or damage your memory.

    Because for example, a lot of people that actually had really strong visual spatial skills that have now become reliant on using like google maps or any of the other various apps to get them from Point A to Point B.

    If they only ever just passively watched the video or the image of how to get from Point A to Point B.

    And they're no longer using their own spatial skills, they really kind of offloaded the cognitive skill to something external, they're going to their spatial skills will get weaker and weaker.

    However, if you're conscious and you use those devices to support you and you watch it and you learn from it and then you turn it off because you already know how to get there because you learned from it, then you're actually strengthening your skills.

    So it all depends on whether you're passive or actively involved and whether you do it yourself or you offload it to someone else, if you offload it to someone else then you're becoming a little bit weaker.

    If you're completely reliant on them, telling you what to do and when to do it, then you're weakening those skills.

    But the way that you're doing it, you are actively involved in creating the structure which is then going to be a reflection in your cognition because now your cognition is going to be more organized.

    Does that make sense?

    It does.

    It's really interesting that and I love the book building a second brain by Tiago Forte in that huge part of that book is about distilling the essence and finding the essence of the information that's coming in and that's why I think it's really important in that phrase remembering everything important because often we can start feeling that we need to remember everything and it's like actually you don't, your brain is a deletion machine as well as a remembering machine.

    Your working memory is intentionally deleting information and filtering it out so that it can take hold of what's important and bring what's important in and leave the rest out.

    We're saving for information out, huge amounts of information coming into our mind, huge amounts of visual information, huge amounts of sensual information, sound knowledge, words, there's so much of it.

    And actually that intentional, effortful activity of saying, I'm going to identify this little picture or this little phrase as what's important and I'm going to go into my notes and write down those three words and take a photo of that.

    And that's all the notes I'm going to take from that.

    That's an effort of inhibitory control really, you know, finding focusing in and zooming in on what is important rather than saying, I'm just going to take a photograph of everything, or I'll copy the whole document, copy the whole website, and throw it into Evernote or throw into my hard drive never to be looked at again.

    And you're like, I know it's there somewhere, but it's just going to be so much so overwhelming to sift through all of that.

    But what what's interesting about Tiago Forte's book in building a second brain is that it's this intentionality to not just remember everything and he doesn't say it as explicitly as this, but that's what I've got out of it is all about remembering everything important and what's important is often only 1/10 of what you're reading or 1/10 of what you're experiencing, but it's deciding what 10th to remember.

    Let's say you only you only remember 2/10 of everything you hear or whatever.

    Well jolly well make sure the one tent that you decide to put into your memory is the important stuff rather than just randomly selecting stuff.

    And for me that's been a big shift because I can inside of myself believe, hey, I can remember everything important with my iPhone, I can't remember everything.

    I can remember everything important.

    I can remember every person's name.

    If I write it down, I can remember every important list of things.

    My wife says to me, if I write it down, I can remember things for Christmas.

    If I write it down.

    But in the past, I wouldn't have because it just felt so overwhelming.

    And I thought to myself, well if I put it down, I know I'm going to put it in my notebook and then maybe not be able to find it or I'll type it into this device or that device or that word document or that google keep or whatever and have used google keep, I have used ever know, I've used all of these things but do you know what those 1.5 seconds it takes to load up that app compared to less than half a second to load up Apple notes makes all the difference for me because I can keep my thoughts and put it straight down at speed of thought rather than google keep, I loved it, but when I open it up and I'm like come on open, open and then I'm like oh gosh what was it I was thinking?

    It's gone or maybe not all of it, but 30% of it maybe.

    You know, I have a great idea, see what you think, why don't we make our next episode on apple notes and these apple devices that you're using so that you can give everybody a very specific example of how you use it.


    All right let's do that because I think that falls really nicely after this one and then it'll be a very practical podcast that can really walk some walk some people through this process.


    And I think a good way of winding up this episode is also to mention the word accessibility.

    So there are so many accessibility tools and techniques which basically means if you are a person who has got some difficulties getting access into a Civic building, you get an accessibility tool which is a ramp, or you know something that helps you get access to that that place.

    And often with dyslexia or A.D.H.D.

    Or any lots of other neuro diverse ways of thinking.

    Often, we use with dyslexia especially we use speech to text or text to speech and all sorts of accessibility techniques like Siri or voice activation and things like that.

    That for many people are just oh nice, interesting.

    You know, gizmos, a nice little technique but for many people it's essential.

    It's just like I can't operate unless I use Siri to do X, Y and Z.

    And if you find yourself within that realm of brain fog and difficulties and so on, well, it's kind of like, oh gosh, I've broken my ankle or I've hurt something.

    So you need an accessibility device, like a walking stick or something that someone else who's had a difficulty all their life is always using and just got used to it.

    It's your turn to use the best of what people within the realm of accessibility have developed and many of those things are embedded inside of your devices.

    Yeah, I love that because there are all these accessibility tools that you can use temporarily when you're having these processing problems and it can really offer you another way to process so that you are able to use your cognition and that you don't have to passively sit there and say, oh I can't do it.

    Well, maybe you can with some of these tools so that you will be able to exercise your cognition.

    And as a final thought, I think it's important that if these are Children that are having difficulties that you reach out to your schools and you express what's going on so that they can get in the United States perhaps a 504 designation where they can get reasonable accommodations and then also reaching out to employers because you may need to ask for workplace accommodations for a temporary time.

    And by doing that, then you're admitting that you're struggling and you're giving your employer that warning because if you don't, there is a possibility.

    They're going to say, well, you're not doing your job and we're going to fire you because you're not doing your job, you don't have to worry about that.

    If you communicate with them directly and say I'm struggling, I need some temporary workplace accommodations, then they might be able to be more compassionate with you.

    So wow, what a great episode.

    This was a lot of fun.

    Thanks for bringing that up Erica and going away and doing that research.

    That was really interesting.

    I love that final Harvard result as well, which was that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Alright, well, I guess we will start on our next podcast next week and I'm really excited.

    I love the idea of going a little bit deeper into how you're using the Apple tools.

    Great Apple notes next week.


    See you.


    Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

    This is dr Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran on check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast and please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.

    Bye bye