Prefrontal Cortex & Speed Processing Considerations at School or Work

Prefrontal Cortex & Speed Processing Considerations at School or Work

Speed Processing, is a component of the Prefrontal Cortex and is usually thought of as the automatic skills we have that help us to think fast, be witty, and respond with energy. It is an important skill to acquire.

Why? As we listen to a main speaker, such as in school, in business or at a lecture, the information that is being offered must be heard, consolidated and associated with current knowledge at the speed given and then stored for retrieval, without losing the rest of the auditory information.

1. An individual with slow cognitive speed will be mentally busy searching and trying to associate the new information with what they already know and this process will slow them down dramatically. They will become ‘brain-drained’ and will lose their ‘auditory place’ in the conversation and therefore, lose interest and only learn bits and pieces of the dialogue.

a. A teacher, parent, or spouse can stop every few sentences and make a statement, “do you have that mentally recorded?”, “did you understand what just happened?”, “still with me?” etc…
b. If in a classroom situation you may want to have everyone stand and look to the person on their right and explain quickly what was just said in the last 5 sentences, then 5 sentences later explain to the one on the left.

2. The mental energy it takes to ‘keep up’ listening when you have a speed processing concern is overwhelming. Therefore, individuals who lack this ‘automatic’ thinking must process or “think through” most of the dialogue they hear. For those without a Speed Processing problem a task of listening is fluent and easy, and for the most part subconscious. However, the individual with a Pre-Frontal Cortex problem may have the ability to allocate the resources to perform some tasks fairly fluently for a limited time and then may run out of cognitive energy rather quickly. At different times during the day (particularly right before lunch and at the end of the school day) their mental resources will be exhausted. It is probable that their performance will be sporadic throughout the day.

a. Take a break! Try doing a slow belly breath or jumping up and down in the restroom 10 times, or drink a large glass of water.
b. If you are a supervisor or a teacher, schedule your day so the intense listening part of the day is at the beginning of the day or right after lunch not at the end of the day.
c. Keep ALL important information in a visual manner, on the board, in a memo or an email.

3. If we know Speed Processing seems to be a concern then it makes sense to provide additional time to complete activities or tasks. Make sure each person is given enough time to do their personal best on a project, giving them plenty of time to prepare and then time to produce.

4. If a skill requires an automatic response (knowing the times tables, memorizing your companies belief statement) then repetition may be a necessary component.

a. Practice in rhythm. It may be helpful to use rhythm sticks, or a drum because the brain will remember rote information faster if given in a format that it can respond to at a primal level. We have a rhythm to our heart, our blood flow, our sleep patterns and even our hormonal cycles.

* There can be many reasons why a person has speed processing concerns. It may be medication side-effects, attention disorders, auditory processing concerns, sleep problems or even depression can affect mental speed. If you feel as if there is a cause for these symptoms then a medical evaluation may be warranted.

For more information on Prefrontal Cortex- Speed Processing concerns contact Dr. Lise’ DeLong,


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