Explaining the Cognitive Load Metric

Cognitive Load and Cognitive Score: Tools for Measuring Mental Activity

Cognitive Score is one of the most noticeable metrics in our apps, especially on Mind Tracker. Cognitive load shows how much brain is loaded with the current task [3], however, it does not show how useful or interesting the task is. Often, our brain spends similar resource for drafting an annual budget, writing a complex code, devising a creative concept, and thinking about bad news or events over and over again. This never-ending thinking is called rumination.

Cognitive Load can be compared to a computer’s processor load: the more resources required to carry out a task, the higher the load is. Measuring cognitive load is correlated to measuring individual alpha peak frequency (iAPF). In classic studies by Wolfgang Klimesch [5] or more modern ones by Olga Bazanova, certain behavioral patterns are identified depending on the frequency of iAPF.

For instance, people with iAPF<10 typically demonstrate a less deep, yet more creative thinking strategy, they are not under stress when they receive large volumes of information from various sources. However, individuals with IAPF>10 have a more tranquil thinking strategy, they process a lot of information and go deeply into the process. They will feel stressed if they constantly receive fragmented information from various sources. We jokingly dub these two types Lively Guys and Nerds, or Poets and Tech Guys.

It is an overview post, and we cannot take a deep dive into all the aspects, such as how hormonal background influences iAPF or what age-related changes there are in the alpha rhythm activity. However, it’s crystal clear that the mechanisms for calculating cognitive load, even for these two major groups, should differ.

For iAPF>10 Hz, it’s practicable to calculate Cognitive Score based on the alpha sub-ranges activity, and in general, high values indicate a state of constructive relaxation and immersion in a task. [1] For iAPF<10 Hz, Cognitive Score is calculated from the activity in the alpha, theta, and beta ranges, relying on the idea of cognitive fatigue. [2]

Cognitive Score Value combined with State Metrics

As we mentioned earlier, establishing the level of the brain load is not enough, knowing what your brain is doing (or at least have an idea) is also very helpful. Combined with state metrics, Cognitive Score can tell us much more. For example, high Cognitive Score and an anxiety state clearly indicate ruminations, while high Cognitive Score combined with an engagement state demonstrates an optimal state for deep and productive work.

Cognitive Score Value combined with Emotion Metrics

Cognitive Score can also be combined with other metrics, such as calmness, focus, tension, anger, and self-control, we will tell you more about them later. This combination provides a better picture of the user’s mental activity and emotional state at a particular moment. For instance, a combination of high Cognitive Score with high Focus can be associated with productive work and deep focus, while a combination of low Cognitive Score with tension indicates increasing fatigue and the need for a break.

1. Olga Bazanova et al, Individual measures of electroencephalogram alpha activity and non-verbal creativity, 2008

2. Michał Ociepka, Patrycja Kałamała, Adam Chuderski et al, High individual alpha frequency brains run fast, but it does not make them smart, 2022

3. Wolfgang Klimesch, Andreas Mierau, Jérémie Lefebvre, State-Dependent Alpha Peak Frequency Shifts: Experimental Evidence, Potential Mechanisms and Functional Implications, 2017.