Why is my brain so slow?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Why is my brain so slow?’’ We will show you the scientific evidence under slow mental processing and some possible pathological causes.

Why is my brain so slow?

If your brain is slow, it can be a symptom of a nutrient deficiency, sleep disorder, bacterial overgrowth from overconsumption of sugar, depression, or even a thyroid condition. 

Slow processing speed is a central issue among brain researchers. There are many intelligent people who process information very slowly due to the way their brains work. Find out what scientists think about how differences in the brain can affect processing speed.

1. The space between neurons

Neurons are tree-like brain cells with branches (Dendrites) and a long trunk (Axon). Information moves from neuron to neuron in the form of electrical signals. These signals have to jump from tree to tree through a small space called a synapse.

Some people who have slow processing speed may have larger than expected gaps between neurons. This may be because neurons have fewer or shorter denditres. These branches play an important role in the movement of information from one tree to the next.

A wider space between neurons can slow speed transmission through the brain.

2. Myelin coating

Some parts of neurons are coated with a fatty substance called myelin. This coating, called the myelin sheath, helps neurons send messages quickly. The myelin layer thickens as children get older, and it may start to lose weight later in life.

Researchers are beginning to study how the thickness of the myelin coating can affect processing speed in healthy children. A slightly thin coating could explain why some children’s brains take longer to process information.

But this remains a theory. Doctors generally would not order brain scans for this, unless the children are part of a research study.

3. Brain chemicals

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that conduct signals through the space between neurons. Think of them as messengers. Some people may have fewer of these. And other children may have messengers who have trouble handling information to the next neuron. Both situations can affect the processing speed.

Having low levels of certain brain chemicals can also cause problems with paying attention. For children who have slow processing speed, ADHD medication may not directly show improvement in processing speed. But it can increase the overall work rate of children, helping them focus.

4. Brain pathways

Neurons, which routinely work together to transmit information, form pathways called neural networks. These are like the routes. When children are learning a new skill, their brains turn a small route into a major highway. Processing speed depends on how efficient or organized these neural networks are.

Some researchers have focused on processing speed and an area of ​​the brain called the frontal lobes. The more an activity is performed, these parts of the brain become more efficient or more densely filled and the faster the task can be completed. Some studies have linked a very slow processing speed with less organization of the frontal lobes.

Practicing a specific skill can help children improve their speed in that skill. Research shows that repeating a task makes it more automatic and therefore faster to process.

Do you notice that your mind is slowing down each time? This may be the explanation

Mental slowness or brain fog is a condition in which a person has real difficulties concentrating, making decisions, remembering things … Sometimes it is a consequence of certain diseases, such as fibromyalgia, and in others it is not known with certainty why it occurs.

A team of scientists from the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam, has shed some light on this matter after launching an investigation that analyzed the relationship between this brain fog and chronic inflammation, understood as a inflammation of the tissues that occurs in the body in response to a disease and does not go away.

Well, in this study, which has been published in the journal Neuroimage, it is shown that chronic inflammation seems to have a particular negative impact on preparing the brain to reach and maintain a state of alert.

The truth is that the scientific community already suspected this link between inflammation and cognition, but no significant evidence had been obtained in this regard, nor the cause-effect relationship.

For example, people living with a medical condition or suffering from obesity often develop some cognitive decline, but it is difficult to know if that is due to the inflammation associated with these conditions or if there are other reasons.

The study

This research has identified a specific critical process within the brain that is clearly affected when inflammation is present. The study specifically focused on an area of ​​the brain that is responsible for visual attention.

To carry it out, a group of 20 young volunteers were recruited who participated and received a vaccine against salmonella typhoid fever that causes temporary inflammation but has few other side effects.

Cognitive responses were assessed using a test that took pictures of the brain a few hours after the injection to be able to measure its ability to control attention. Brain activity was measured while they performed the attention tests.

Then, on a different day, they were given a placebo and performed the same tests, so that they did not know which injection they had received. His state of inflammation was measured by analyzing the blood drawn each day.

The tests used in the study evaluated three separate attention processes, each of which involves different parts of the brain. These processes are: “alert” which implies reaching and maintaining a state of alert; “Orient” which implies selecting and prioritizing useful sensory information; and the “executive control” that involves choosing what to pay attention to when the information available is conflicting.

The results showed that inflammation specifically affected brain activity related to staying alert, while other attention processes seemed unaffected by it.

The research is a great step forward in understanding the links between physical, cognitive and mental health and the consequences of certain diseases, even if they seem mild, in our brain.

Even patients with diseases associated with chronic inflammation, such as obesity, kidney disease, or Alzheimer’s, could benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medications to help preserve or improve cognitive function.

Now, the next step is to assess the effects of inflammation on other areas of brain function, such as memory.

Slow Cognitive Tempo: causes and related disorders

The concept “slow cognitive tempo” refers to a cognitive-emotional style that is characterized mainly by the continued presence of a state of confusion, lost gaze, 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, the following are common in people with slow cognitive tempo:

  • Low precision and speed in information processing.
  • Frequent appearance of feelings of fatigue, or chronic tiredness.
  • Relatively low levels of energy and activity.
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Difficulty staying alert or awake in unstimulating situations.
  • Withdrawal, less interest and participation in activities.
  • Difficulty transforming thoughts into words.
  • Loss of train of thought, forgetfulness blocks when speaking.

Slow cognitive tempo was initially believed to be a subtype of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in which inattention symptoms predominated. Advances in scientific research have shown that it is actually a separate 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 and psychiatric disorders, including major depression, generalized anxiety, intellectual functional diversity or different learning-related disorders, in addition to ADHD.

Causes of this syndrome

The causes of slow cognitive tempo are not fully understood at this time. It is believed, however, that the nerve networks associated with attention in the back of the brain, in the parietal lobes, are more associated 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.

The slow cognitive tempo appears to have a biological basis similar to that of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, the heritability of ADHD is higher in the subtype in which symptoms of hyperactivity predominate.

In contrast, the 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 show the characteristic syndrome of slow cognitive tempo. The clinical similarities between this pattern and inattention-predominant ADHD are significant, but both constructs differ in some neurological and cognitive characteristics.

For many experts, the increased 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 it gains explanatory power if the TCL is included among the criteria.

2. Major depression

A clear association has been found between slow cognitive tempo and the presence of internalizing symptoms, particularly those that are typical of mood and anxiety disorders.

Although this relationship is modest in intensity, it is somewhat more powerful in the case of depression than in the case of anxiety. In addition, 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 disorders such as social phobia, obsessive thoughts and especially generalized anxiety disorder, which is closely connected with depression from a point of view. biological view.

The signs of inattention mediate the relationship between anxiety disorders and slow cognitive tempo: the difficulties in attention inherent to CLT are increased by the effects of anxiety, which itself involves alterations in this psychological function.

4. Behavioral disorders

Children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to develop behavior problems, such as to 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 deficits in self-organization and problem solving, as well as other executive functions. The severity of the associated difficulties depends on the intensity of the symptoms in each specific case.

FAQS:  Why is my brain so slow?

What is the cause of slow thinking?

The slowed thinking associated with this condition is very common when someone, for example, suffers a brain injury, has dementia or suffers from a certain psychological disorder.

How can I speed up my brain?

8 ways to increase your brain power

Do exercise.

Memorize on the go.

Eat the right foods.

Disconnect and escape.

Look for new challenges.

Turn up the music!

Study … and sleep.

Get up well.

What causes slow brain processing speed?

It is caused by differences in the brain that make everything take longer than other children. This includes doing homework, having a conversation, and making decisions like what to eat for breakfast.

How do you know if your brain is slow?

Lack of Concentration. 


Chronic Fatigue.

Mental Flatlining.

How do I stop being mentally slow?

Remove the stressor. …

Take a break. …

Exercise. …

Relaxation techniques. …

Get more sleep. …

Keep a gratitude journal. …

Medical treatment.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’Why is my brain so slow?’’ We have shown you the scientific evidence under slow mental processing and some possible pathological causes.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Mueller, A. K., Tucha, L., Koerts, J., Groen, T., Lange, K. W. & Tucha, O. (2014). Sluggish cognitive tempo and its neurocognitive, social and emotive correlates: a systematic review of the current literature. Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, 2: 5.