Cognitive overstimulation


Overstimulation occurs when more stimuli arrive than the brain can process. This can occur in healthy people because the brain is temporarily overloaded. It can also arise because the brain has a lower load capacity due to a brain disorder.
There are differences between sick and healthy brains in overstimulation in terms of severity of the complaints, the duration of the complaints and the 'recovery time' that the brain needs to return to a resting state.

It should be noted that people with damaged brains are already 3-0 behind because many of them suffer from daily fatigue, neurofatigue.
On this page we only discuss cognitive and emotional overstimulation in terms of causes and consequences.

There is a difference between cognitive, emotional and sensory overstimulation in brain injury:

  • Cognitive overstimulation
    Cognitive cause and cognitive complaints. May be accompanied by less serious physical complaints than the sensory variant.
  • Sensory overstimulation
    The senses are the cause of complaints due to sensory overstimulation. May be accompanied by more serious physical complaints and cognitive complaints.
  • Combination of cognitive and sensory overstimulation
    The cause lies in both sensory and cognitive stimuli. The consequences manifest themselves physically and cognitively.


Cognitive and emotional overstimulation

The word 'cognition' includes everything related to thinking.
Many people with brain injury experience delayed information processing since the brain injury, which can make the pace of ordinary thinking and listening tasks intensely tiring and lead to cognitive and some physical complaints.
In general, the complaints caused by cognitive overstimulation alone are milder than the complaints caused by the combination of cognitive and sensory overstimulation.


  • Cognitive overstimulation can occur if too many conscious thinking tasks are performed, such as memory tasks, learning tasks, tasks that require attention or to understand something. It can also occur if information is presented too quickly in relation to the person's processing speed.
  • Cognitive overstimulation occurs when a person is too tired to think. The brain can no longer keep up with thinking or conscious observations.
  • Cognitive overstimulation can be a cause (a stacking effect) of sensory overstimulation, where a single sensory stimulus can be too much.
  • Cognitive overstimulation and sensory overstimulation can mutually influence and reinforce each other. Together they can even lead to a vicious circle of overstimulation.


However, many people with brain damage can still gain some benefit from this form of overstimulation by keeping a close eye on the limits. By getting to know the signals of fatigue and limits. With 'planning and not running', agenda management, clear structure and good explanation to bystanders, this form of overstimulation is more manageable. However, it is good to realize that life is unpredictable. There will always be days and weeks when it won't work.


Emotional overstimulation

Emotional overstimulation is classified as cognitive overstimulation of thinking.
Emotional overstimulation occurs when there have been too many emotionally stressful moments or when someone is too tired to process the emotions.
Emotional overstimulation can be a cause (for example a stacking effect) or a consequence of sensory overstimulation.
If someone has had to cognitively process too many stimuli due to, for example, a busy weekly agenda, they will become emotional more quickly.
With too many emotional moments, one sensory stimulus can be too much for the brain.
Emotional overstimulation is internationally coded under the ICD code F06.6 organic labile affect disorder. That is, the emotional lability results from an organic disorder, in this case brain dysfunction.



In general, the complaints due to cognitive overstimulation alone are milder than the complaints due to the combination of cognitive and sensory overstimulation. If there is a combination of these two forms of overstimulation, or if there is only sensory overstimulation, the following consequences may occur:

  • general neurovegetative imbalance* (autonomic nervous system) with a fight, flight or freeze response and/or
  • a short-term or long-term worsening of neurological and cognitive brain injury complaints and/or
  • \a short-term or long-term presentation of neurological and cognitive brain injury complaints.


* definition of neurovegetative complaints: disease symptoms that can arise when the autonomic nervous system, which independently controls various organs, is disrupted.


If there is only cognitive overstimulation, there is usually an exacerbation of cognitive brain injury complaints or a presentation of cognitive brain injury complaints, which only occur with overstimulation and not otherwise.

It can be accompanied by headache or nausea, feeling uneasy, heightened emotions and the aforementioned cognitive complaints such as not being able to think properly or speaking less well.