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

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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