A substantial proportion of severe chronic pain patients exhibit impaired neuropsychological function. In the future, this aspect of chronic pain syndromes should be systematically assessed.
Patients with chronic nonmalignant pain syndromes frequently report cognitive dysfunction, in particular with respect to concentration and attention. Such complaints have, in general, been attributed to depressive symptoms. In this study we showed that cognitive complaints in chronic pain patients are significantly associated with objective test performance in the area of inhibitory control after partialling out degree of depressive symptoms. Furthermore, about 20% of the patients performed below cut-off for clinically significant impairment on tests of basic neurocognitive functioning. A larger proportion of patients with generalized and neuropathic pain performed below this cut-off, whereas patients with localized pain exhibited impaired function to a lesser degree. Chronic pain patients receiving opioids did not perform worse than patients off opioid treatment. Systematic assessment of basic neurocognitive functions in centres treating chronic pain patients is warranted.