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Speed of Mental Operations in Fibromyalgia: A Selective Naming Speed Deficit - Source: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, Jul 17, 2008

  [ 60 votes ]   [ 3 Comments ]
By Frank Leavitt, PhD; Robert S. Katz, MD • • July 21, 2008

Objective: Abnormal processing of information in fibromyalgia may hold clues to brain abnormalities in this illness.

The purpose of this study is to examine the speed of mental operations in people with the fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) under the pressure of time.

The central question addresses whether FMS is associated with processing speed deficits across a spectrum of speeded tasks.

Methods: Sixty-seven patients with fibromyalgia with a history of memory complaints and 51 controls presenting with complaints of memory loss completed 10 timed cognitive measures of processing speed.

Controls were patients with memory complaints who did not have FMS.


  • The majority of FMS patients (>70%) performed within 1 standard deviation of the norm on 7 or more of 10 speeded measures.
  • However, more than 49% of FMS patients tested as impaired (>1.67 SD below normative mean) on 2 specific validated speed tasks (reading words and naming colors).
  • Compared with controls, the number of FMS patients showing impairment was 2.0 times greater for reading speed, and 1.6 times greater for color naming speed.
  • A mean time delay of 203 milliseconds was recorded for reading words and 285 milliseconds for naming colors in the FMS impaired sample.
  • A 203 milliseconds delay in reading words represents a 48% (203/417) time increase over the normal time for reading the same stimulus word.


  • Abnormalities in naming speed are an unappreciated feature of FMS.
  • Selective deficits in naming speed in association with otherwise well preserved global processing speed set patients with FMS apart from controls with memory complaints.
  • Clinicians would be wise to specifically request adding a rapid naming test such as the Stroop Test to the cognitive battery; to document cognitive dysfunction in FMS patients who otherwise appear to test normally, despite often intense complaints of memory and concentration difficulties that can affect job performance and increase disability.

Source: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, Jul 17, 2008. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 18636019, by Leavitt F, Katz RS. Departments of Behavioral Sciences and Internal Medicine, Section of Rheumatology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois, USA. [E-mail:]

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Article Comments Post a Comment

A Selective Naming Speed Deficit
Posted by: TrudyBird
Jul 23, 2008
Thank you for this report. This has been a hidden handicap of mine for many years. I have an intelligent mind. I'm active in community affairs and arts. I hold down a great job. I'm articulate... But most people don't know that I have struggled to focus my thoughts all of my life. I have huge chunks of my childhood I cannot recall at all. I thought it might be due to the trauma of living with an alcoholic father. I would flood my brain to take me to a better place. I got pretty good at it. As an adult, stress tends to scatter my thoughts unless I very purposely and intently focus. I write a lot of things down so I don't forget. I can talk and relate to people on a grand scale, but please don't ask me the details of what we said a day or two later. I focus so intently on a movie when I watch it that I nearly become part of it, but I will also forget large portions of it later. I used to think I had ADD, but the more I learn about fibromyalgia since I've been diagnosed, I believe this is all part of it as well. The trauma of living with my alcoholic father and living in fear so much may have triggered the onset of my fibromyalgia... anyway... that's how I look at it. I've been exhausted since I was a child and have always had aches and pains. I've had other tough spots in my life, but who hasn't. Putting the puzzle together can pretty interesting. I would have loved to have taken that test. I'll suggest it to my doctor next time I see him. He's open to learning as much as he can about this.
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Just like me!
Posted by: Aberlaine
Jul 24, 2008
Your description sounds a lot like me. My mom died when I was three years old. I've blocked out most of my early years due to an uncaring step-mother. My brother has even suggested some sexual abuse in the past.

I've suffered from migraines, poor memory, fatigue and terrible cramps during my period most of my life. When my thyroid was tested, it was found to be barely working. So I started taking thyroid medication. As I grew older, I still felt exhausted. That's when fibromyalgia was suspected.

When my doctor gave me a "mini mental" test, I passed with flying colors. But I've always felt that my brain processed things slowly. I have terrible concentration and almost non-existent short term memory.


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