Cognitive Fog and MS

This week Fergal Hughes talks about his own experience of brain fog.

While talking to someone, I suddenly realise that I am actually talking to someone!! The person opposite me is looking interested, maybe even amused. I must've said something funny.

'What was I saying? What were we talking about?'

I pause... but still I can’t remember, so I admit my confusion and try to make light of it, hoping for the best. It happens when I might be regaling someone with a funny story of something that happened to me in the past, only at the end to be told, "Yeah, you told me that last week."

Very Embarrassing!

Welcome to the world of 'cog fog'.

Cognitive fog (or 'brain fog'), that feeling of being confused, of choosing the wrong word at the wrong time (or maybe the right time, I don't know).

But actually it's even more than that. For me, this is a good definition that I found online.

Brain fog is "the loss of intellectual functions such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning of sufficient severity to interfere with daily functioning". IT'S ALL IN THE HEAD

If you think about it, everybody suffers from 'cog fog' at one time or another.  It might have hit you when you were exhausted or hungover and the last thing you wanted was to have a conversation because you knew you weren't able for it.

As with 'dyslexia', everyone's got it to some degree; everyone's accidentally mixed up some wrods or lteetrs at some time.

It Strikes You…

Cognitive fog strikes when you're trying to make a certain two or three points that you'd intended to make in a meeting.

It strikes when you want to tell that amusing anecdote on a night out.

It strikes when you realise the point you're trying to make is actually more complicated than you'd thought. Not only have you forgotten how all the sub-points link up but what the overarching main point even was.

It strikes when you're writing. (It does for me anyway). I've noticed more and more when I read back over a sentence or a paragraph that I've just written, a word or two is missing. For example, when I read back over the previous line just now, I noticed that the words "I've just written" was missing. Recently, this has been happening more and more to me.

Very Annoying


What about slurring? I've found that I slur more and more too. It is like I'm really tired or drunk. Now I deliberately slow down my speech. That way, I enunciate better and I'm more understandable to others (I hope).

I'm taking a lot of prescription drugs (nerve pain painkillers etc.) and one sleeping tablet per night. I suffer from extreme facial pains and the sleeping tablet helps with anxiety. But I do think the massive amount of drugs I have to take is maybe doing more harm than good. Another discussion to have with my doctor!?

In my last job, a software engineering position in a multinational communications company, my boss in the space of four years told me that he noticed my cognitive skills (specifically my ability to comprehend complex algorithms) had deteriorated within that time.

The company made numerous staff redundant and I was one of them. I shared my thoughts on Employment, Redundancy and MS, in a previous blog post.

Dealing with Cog Fog

So, to actually deal with cognitive fog, well for me I'm still looking for the ultimate solution.

  • The alerts in the calendar of my phone are one excellent place. Anything that's even mildly significant is worth adding to my calendar, so I'll be reminded in good time. And when the alert does come up a few hours (or days) later, I'm usually so relieved and thankful that I had set it in the first place.
  • Creating folders on my computer's desktop which will then contain text file notes, all appropriately named of course, helps massively I even created a folder and two text files to help with my latest blog.

I'm far from completely successful at dealing with cog fog. A lot of the time, I just have to suck it up and suffer the embarrassment of admitting confusion and hope that the person I'm talking to will "understand". And that in itself sounds as awful as it sounds patronising. The other person is put in a fairly rotten position; not only do they have to show a level of understanding but they have to try and not leave me feeling and looking stupid.

The whole thing is a massive pity for me and my ego, considering I was known among my friends in school and college for having quite a good turn of phrase.

I'd love to know what others do or recommend. Do you play some kind of memory games? Do you do brain training exercises?