What is bradyphrenia? Causes, symptoms, and treatment

bradyphreniaBradyphrenia is the slowness of thought and a common manifestation of many disorders of the brain. It can also be the side effect of several types of psychiatric medication. Bradyphrenia can be appreciated in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and some forms of schizophrenia. It is also called a psychic akinesia.

Those affected often display inattentiveness and delayed response, leading to decreased productivity when a task is given. These patients often only respond with one-word answers, not giving a complete reply. Complaints of difficulty thinking and in expressing thoughts is a common occurrence. Much of their time is spent searching for words to describe their feelings when communicating with others.

Causes and symptoms of bradyphrenia


Bradyphrenia is commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease, but this is very much still up for debate. Not all Parkinson’s disease patients suffer from problems with cognitive function. However, about half of people with Parkinson’s do experience some problems with cognitive impairment.

Brain damage and side-effects of psychiatric medication are the most common reasons for the development of bradyphrenia. Old age may also be a risk factor.

Symptoms of bradyphrenia include:

  • Cognitive slowing leading to disruptions of speech, mobility, sentence comprehension, executive function, and working memory
  • Increased latency of response
  • Absence of voluntary motion
  • Compulsions and repetitive actions
  • Mental void or blank
  • Reduced emotional concern

Diagnosing and treating bradyphrenia

Bradyphrenia is mostly a clinical diagnosis and is typically a symptom of a disorder or treatment regimen. This means that there is no single test to diagnose the condition, but instead, it is up to the attending physician to recognize the symptoms and make the diagnosis. To help doctors make a more definitive diagnosis, they may use multiple tests. These include:

  • Bedside examination: Includes reading the alphabet backward, letter fluency, Serial 7s, and Trail making test
  • Psychomotor and psychological speed measures: Using tests measuring reaction time, recognition time, choice reaction time and inspection time.
  • Neuropsychological measures include adult memory and processing tests, paced sensory addition tests, Stroop test, and Wechsler Adult Intelligence scale-III tests.
  • Computerized measures: Includes auditory and visual threshold tests, serial addition test, and Sternberg memory scanning tests.


Since bradyphrenia is commonly a symptom of another neurotological condition, a treatment specifically targeting a slowed thinking process can be difficult. Bradyphrenia does frequently respond to anti-Parkinson’s medications, however, due to some of them being anticholinergic in nature, it may cause or exacerbate cognitive impairment.
Treatment for bradyphrenia aims to achieve the following:

  • Stopping the offending medication causing bradyphrenia
  • Normalization of blood sugar and cobalamin levels
  • Minimize cerebrovascular risk factors
  • Slow the progression of condition by interfering with nerve cell degeneration

Lifestyle changes for bradyphrenia patients

The reality of the situation is that most of the time, coping with bradyphrenia is the most logical option for preceding treatment. This means that instead of finding a cure, a modification of lifestyle will occur. Bradyphrenia patients often use the flowing lifestyle changes to help improve their day to day lives.

  • Focus on just one task at a time. Write them down if necessary
  • Be patient during long pauses
  • Limit distractions in the environment
  • Allow others to speak slowly and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat their words
  • Allow yourself enough time to react
  • Maintain focus on the person
  • Beware of others person preferences
  • Use alarm clocks or watches to help keep track of appointments
  • Listen closely to instructions if embarking on a new task

Living with bradyphrenia can be quite frustrating. However, knowing that your physician has your best interest in mind should give you some comfort. It may take some getting used to, but with the understanding and support of the people around you, living with bradyphrenia can be manageable.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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