Cognition and Memory

Cognition refers to the mental processes of knowing, including high-level perception, language, and reasoning. Cognitive processes may be dichotomized as crystallized or fluid. y Crystallized processes involve the application of well-established knowledge and well-practiced routines, such as vocabulary knowledge. Fluid processes are invoked when a problem must be solved with a novel, flexible strategy, such as reasoning. Fluid processes are far more dependent on working memory capacity than crystallized processes are. Some factors influence cognitive functions in a global fashion. Education, for example, typically augments many cognitive abilities. There is, however, considerable evidence that various forms of cognition reflect psychologically and neurally distinct processes. For example, spatial and verbal cognition depend mostly on processes that are psychologically distinct and mediated by different brain regions.

Cognition has multiple relations with memory. Impaired cognition in a particular knowledge domain is usually correlated with both declarative and nondeclarative memory impairments in that domain. A patient with aphasia, for example, is likely to have impaired declarative and nondeclarative memory for words. Declarative memory, however, can be greatly impaired without affecting cognition except insofar as cognition depends on the acquisition of new declarative memories. Thus, individuals who cannot form new declarative memories can perform very well on many demanding tests of cognition. The same individuals, however, can fail relatively undemanding tests of cognition if they involve the explicit learning of new information. Specific impairments in working memory can lead to broad difficulties in cognition because reduced working memory capacity limits the expression or use of acquired information in situations that require fluid thinking.

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