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Cognitive dysfunction in adolescents with chronic fatigue: a cross-sectional study

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Editor’s Note: While the abstract refers to “chronic fatigue.” the full paper refers to “chronic fatigue syndrome.” The inclusion criteria were 3 months of medically unexplained fatigue and referral by a physician. You can read the full paper HERE.
By D. Sulheim et al.
OBJECTIVE: To compare cognitive function in adolescents with chronic fatigue with cognitive function in healthy controls (HC).
STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Paediatric department at Oslo University Hospital, Norway.
PARTICIPANTS: 120 adolescents with chronic fatigue (average age 15.4?years; range 12-18) and 39 HC (average age 15.2?years; range 12-18).
METHODS: The adolescents completed a neurocognitive test battery measuring processing speed, working memory, cognitive inhibition, cognitive flexibility, verbal learning and verbal memory, and questionnaires addressing demographic data, depression symptoms, anxiety traits, fatigue and sleep problems. Parents completed the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF), which measures the everyday executive functions of children.
RESULTS: Adolescents with chronic fatigue had impaired cognitive function compared to HC regarding processing speed (mean difference 3.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 5.5, p=0.003), working memory (-2.4, -3.7 to -1.1, p<0.001), cognitive inhibition response time (6.2, 0.8 to 11.7, p=0.025) and verbal learning (-1.7, -3.2 to -0.3, p=0.022). The BRIEF results indicated that everyday executive functions were significantly worse in the chronic fatigue group compared to the HC (11.2, 8.2 to 14.3, p<0.001). Group differences remained largely unaffected when adjusted for symptoms of depression, anxiety traits and sleep problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents with chronic fatigue had impaired cognitive function of clinical relevance, measured by objective cognitive tests, in comparison to HC. Working memory and processing speed may represent core difficulties.
Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.
Source: Sulheim D, Fagermoen E, Sivertsen ØS, Winger A, Wyller VB, Øie MG. Arch Dis Child. 2015 Mar 19. pii: archdischild-2014-306764. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2014-306764. [Epub ahead of print]

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