Cognitive Deficits in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Their Relationship to Psychological Status, Symptomatology, and Everyday Functioning

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Abstract

Objective: To examine cognitive deficits in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and their relationship to psychological status, CFS symptoms, and everyday functioning. Method: The current study compared the cognitive performance (reaction time, attention, memory, motor functioning, verbal abilities, and visuospatial abilities) of a sample with CFS (n = 50) with that of a sample of healthy controls (n = 50), all of whom had demonstrated high levels of effort and an intention to perform well, and examined the extent to which psychological status, CFS symptoms, and everyday functioning were related to cognitive performance. Results: The CFS group showed impaired information processing speed (reaction time), relative to the controls, but comparable performance on tests of attention, memory, motor functioning, verbal ability, and visuospatial ability. Moreover, information processing speed was not related to psychiatric status, depression, anxiety, the number or severity of CFS symptoms, fatigue, sleep quality, or everyday functioning. Conclusion: A slowing in information processing speed appears to be the main cognitive deficit seen in persons with CFS whose performance on effort tests is not compromised. Importantly, this slowing does not appear to be the consequence of other CFS-related variables, such as depression and fatigue, or motor speed.

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