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Attention & verbal learning in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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By Michiels V, Cluydts R, Fischler B • www.ProHealth.com • September 28, 1998


Former neuropsychological studies with Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome (CFS) patients evaluated a broad range of cognitive
functions. Several, but not all, reported subtle attentional
and memory impairments suggesting possible mild cerebral
involvement. In this study, a battery of attentional tests and
a verbal memory task were administered to 20 CFS patients and
22 healthy controls (HC) in order to clarify the specific
nature of attention and memory impairment in these patients.
The results provide evidence for attentional dysfunction in
patients with CFS as compared to HC. CFS patients performed
more poorly on a span test measuring attentional capacity and
working memory. Speeded attentional tasks with a more complex
element of memory scanning and divided attention seem to be a
sensitive measure of reduced attentional capacity in these
patients. Focused attention, defined as the ability to attend
to a single stimulus while ignoring irrelevant stimuli,
appears not to be impaired. CFS patients were poorer on recall
of verbal information across learning trials, and poor
performance on delayed recall may be due to poor initial
learning and not only to a retrieval failure.




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