Slow Cognitive Tempo: Causes And Related Disorders

Although it was previously believed that slow cognitive tempo (SCT) was a subtype of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with predominance of inattention symptoms, it is now known that it is a differentiated syndrome that also manifests itself in other psychopathological alterations.

In this article we will describe the clinical characteristics, The causes of slow cognitive tempo and its relationship with other disorders. Research into this set of symptoms is in the initial stage, but has been advancing at a significant speed for some years.

What is Slow Cognitive Tempo?

The concept “slow cognitive tempo” refers to a cognitive-emotional style that is mainly characterized by the continued presence of a state of confusion, blank stare, daydreaming, lack of motivation and slowness or laziness. If these manifestations are understood as symptoms, we can conceptualize TCL as a syndrome.

In addition to these five cardinal signs, it is common for the following to also be detected in people with a slow cognitive tempo:

Initially it was believed that slow cognitive tempo It was a subtype of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. in which symptoms of inattention predominated. The advance of scientific research has shown that it is actually an independent clinical category, although there is no agreement as to whether it is a disorder or not.

In this sense, the clinical characteristics of slow cognitive tempo appear in the context of various psychological disorders and psychiatric, among which major depression, generalized anxiety, intellectual functional diversity or different learning-related disorders, in addition to ADHD, stand out.

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Causes of this syndrome

The causes of slow cognitive tempo are not fully understood at the moment. It is believed, however, that neural networks associated with attention in the back of the brainin the parietal lobes, are associated to a greater extent with this syndrome than the frontal lobes, as is the case in ADHD.

On the other hand, it has been discovered that exposure to high amounts of alcohol during fetal development favors the appearance of these neurocognitive signs.

Slow cognitive tempo seems to have a biological basis similar to that of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, the heritability of ADHD is greater in the subtype in which hyperactivity symptoms predominate.

On the other hand, cases of ADHD that are related to the presence of slow cognitive tempo are those that have a lower weight of genetic inheritance. It has been hypothesized that this style of thinking and emotion arises as a consequence of changes in environmental influences caused by the very presence of inattention symptoms.

Relationship with other disorders

There is currently an unresolved debate regarding the clinical nature of slow cognitive tempo. Its correlation with other psychological disorders may shed some light in this regard.

1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Research indicates that between 30 and 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD They show the characteristic syndrome of slow cognitive tempo. The clinical similarities between this pattern and ADHD with predominance of inattention are significant, but both constructs differ in some neurological and cognitive characteristics.

For many experts, the increase in interest in slow cognitive tempo represents an opportunity to question the diagnosis of ADHD itself, which encompasses very diverse manifestations and became restrictive in the area of ​​inattention in the transition from DSM-III to DSM. -IV, but gains explanatory power if the TCL is included among the criteria.

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2. Major depression

Has been found a clear association between slow cognitive tempo and the presence of internalizing symptomsparticularly those that are typical of mood and anxiety disorders.

Although this relationship is modest in strength, it is somewhat stronger for depression than for anxiety. Furthermore, some authors defend that slow cognitive tempo is associated to a greater extent with internalization than with ADHD.

3. Anxiety disorders

Regarding the category of anxiety disorders, comorbidities have been found between slow cognitive time and alterations such as social phobia, obsessive thoughts and especially generalized anxiety disorder, which is closely connected to depression from a biological point of view.

Signs of inattention mediate the relationship between anxiety disorders and slow cognitive tempo: the difficulties in attention typical of TCL are increased by the effects of anxiety, which itself entails alterations in this psychological function.

4. Behavioral disorders

Children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to develop behavioral problems, such as conduct disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, or substance abuse. However, in cases with slow cognitive tempo this relationship is reduced; therefore, TCL acts as a protection factor.

5. Learning difficulties

Slow cognitive tempo interferes with learning through the appearance of deficits in self-organization and problem solving, as well as in other executive functions. The severity of the associated difficulties depends on the intensity of the symptoms in each specific case.

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