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Cognitive performance & complaints of cognitive impairment in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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By Wearden A, Appleby L • www.ProHealth.com • January 5, 1997


Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) complain that they have
difficulties with concentration and memory but studies to date
have not found consistent objective evidence of performance
deficits. Two groups of CFS patients, depressed and
non-depressed, and healthy controls, were asked about
concentration problems in general and specifically when
reading. CFS subjects were more likely than controls to report
that they had concentration problems when reading, that they
needed to re-read text and that they failed to take in what
they were reading. Subjects then performed a task in which
their reading behaviour and text recall was measured. While
all CFS subjects complained of general cognitive failures and
of difficulties with reading, only depressed CFS subjects
recalled significantly less of the text than controls.

Severity of complaints about reading problems was not related
to amount of text recalled, but was related to severity of
depressed mood. However, subjects were able to evaluate
accurately their ability to remember the text immediately
after reading it and before being tested for recall.

Additionally, subjects performed a paired-associate learning
task on which no significant differences between the subject
groups was found. It is concluded that deficits in cognitive
functioning in CFS patients are more likely to be found on
naturalistic than on laboratory tasks.




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