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Cognitive deficits in patients suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), acute infective illness or depression

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By Vollmer-Conna U, Wakefield D, Lloyd A, Hickie I, Lemon J, Bird KD, Westbrook RF • www.ProHealth.com • October 9, 1997


BACKGROUND: Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
report neuro-psychological symptoms as a characteristic
feature. We sought to assess cognitive performance in patients
with CFS, and compare cognitive performance and subjective
workload experience of these patients with that of two disease
comparison groups (non-melancholic depression and acute
infection) and healthy controls.
METHOD: A computerized
performance battery employed to assess cognitive functioning
included tests of continuous attention, response speed,
performance accuracy and memory. Severity of mood disturbance
and subjective fatigue were assessed by questionnaire.
RESULTS: All patient groups demonstrated increased errors and
slower reaction times, and gave higher workload ratings than
healthy controls. Patients with CFS and non-melancholic
depression had more severe deficits than patients with acute
infection. All patient groups reported more severe mood
disturbance and fatigue than healthy controls, but patients
with CFS and those with acute infection reported less severe
mood disturbance than patients with depression.
CONCLUSIONS:
As all patients demonstrated similar deficits in attention and
response speed, it is possible that common pathophysiological
processes are involved. The differences in severity of mood
disturbance, however, suggest that the pathophysiological
processes in patients with CFS and acute infection are not
simply secondary to depressed mood.




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