Cognition and cognitive abilities deal with information processing
Cognition is short for the processing of information towards (changes in) behavior. A large part of sensory information that is received by the brain is processed and used without us becoming aware of them. Other forms of information are dissected and summarized in such a way that we become conscious of them and can, for instance, store them in our memory.
The brain plays an active role in selecting information and piecing together various information modalities into a person’s view on reality. This can be recorded using MRI. Neuropsychologists apply a wide variety of protocols and tasks to delineate the various elements involved in cognition. While such insights are instrumental in understanding what makes us conscious it also links up with disorders that affect cognitive abilities such as pathological gambling, dementias or depression.
Emotion is the expression of what we feel. Emotion takes into account our cognitive abilities and drives our responses under given circumstances. Emotion deals with anxiety / fear, empathy, mood, affect and compulsions, and is subject to physiological stimuli such as hormones and sleep.
Using GABA spectrometry, the levels of this neurotransmitter can be investigated in specific brain nuclei and coupled to the brain’s status. Moreover, it may provide an outlook to the brain’s vulnerability to develop mood disorders such as panic, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. For these purposes, additional spectrometric protocols may be developed to record changes in other neurotransmitter levels as well.
Similar MRI methods are employed in studying obsessive-compulsive behavior such as gambling and drug taking. Moreover, MRI data may guide and monitor progression of subsequent treatment strategies.