Mental decline is widely viewed as an inevitable part of growing old. A Parker man is among those who say it doesn't have to be.
Torsten Jess, a cognitive enhancement specialist and founder of Brain Function Optimization, LLC, has spent 16 years treating those with age-associated memory loss and mild cognitive impairments. It is his assertion that mental deterioration is not only avoidable, but that simple exercises can actually improve brain function with age.
"By doing cognitive training, it has been proven that we can develop more connections in the brain," he said.
Jess treats a handful of people with brain damage caused by traumatic injuries, but mostly works with patients who have been diagnosed with mild cases of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. More often than not, he performs his job in a patient's home or at assisted-living centers in Parker, Castle Rock, Aurora, Denver and all points in between.
Using everything from pencil and paper to computer programs, Jess employs a range of "evidence-based" tasks that focus on memory, problem-solving and speed of processing, he said. After doing two sessions per week for six weeks, he instructs the patients to apply the treatments to real-world situations.
"They're introduced in an incremental and well-planned out manner," Jess said. "We're able to target specific areas where the person is having problems."
Jess's expertise in speech and language pathology is not by accident. He began undergoing speech therapy at a young age for a pronounced stutter. It was the subtle but effective manipulation of the brain that drove him into the field.
"I began to appreciate the workings of the brain and also the potential of it," he said.
Cognitive training is everywhere, and the tech world is no different. Popular applications like Lumosity, a computer-based training platform that uses games to improve reasoning, are a good step, but Jess says it's only a small piece of the puzzle. Staying socially active, for example, is crucial in maintaining a healthy, well-rounded brain.
Cognitive impairment can impact everyday tasks, such as budgeting, planning for meals, cleaning, running errands and remembering to take medications. Those who exhibit poor decision-making are at risk of losing their independence and jeopardize their personal safety, Jess says. Repetition of mental exercises is important to connecting neurons and shifting the odds in the patient's favor.
"All of our brains are malleable. They can be shaped and altered, they can be improved upon," he said. "I have actually seen some pretty remarkable people who have had some pretty considerable deficits that have turned it around. It's almost like a high for me to help somebody out."
For more information, call 303-658-9868 or visit www.brainfunctionoptimization.com.
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