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

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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