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Abstract: Experimental evidence for interpretive but not attention biases towards somatic information in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

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www.ProHealth.com • June 16, 2003


Br J Health Psychol. 2003 May;8(Pt 2):195-208.  Moss-Morris R, Petrie KJ.  Department of Health Psychology, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.

OBJECTIVE: This study tested whether CFS patients have an attentional information processing bias for illness-related information and a tendency to interpret ambiguous information in a somatic fashion.

DESIGN: 25 patients meeting research criteria for a diagnosis of CFS were compared to 24 healthy matched controls on a modified Stroop task and an ambiguous cues task.

METHOD: In the modified Stroop task, participants colour named a series of somatic, depressed and neutral words in order to ascertain whether the somatic words were more distracting to the CFS patients than the depressed and neutral words when compared to controls. In the ambiguous cues task, participants were presented with a tape-recorded list of 30 words including 15 ambiguous illness words (e.g., vein/vain) and 15 unambiguous words.  For each word, they were asked to write down the first word that came into their head. A somatic bias score was obtained for each subject by summing the number of somatic responses to the ambiguous word cues.

RESULTS: Although CFS patients were significantly slower in colour naming all of the Stroop word categories than controls, there was no evidence for illness or depressed words creating greater interference than neutral words. However, on the ambiguous cues task, CFS patients made significantly more somatic interpretations than controls and this bias was significantly associated with the extent to which they currently reported symptoms.

CONCLUSION: CFS patients have an interpretive bias for somatic information which may play a part in the maintenance of the disorder by heightening patients' experience of physical symptoms and helping to maintain their negative illness schemas. Although patients did not show an attentional bias in this study, this may be related to the methodology employed.

PMID: 12804333 [PubMed - in process]




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