The effect of cognitive behavior therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome on self-reported cognitive impairments and neuropsychological test performance

[Note: Cognitive behavior therapy is a kind of psychotherapy that focuses on the relationship between problems, behavior and thoughts.]

Journal: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;78(4):434-6.

Authors and affiliation: Knoop H, Prins JB, Stulemeijer M, van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G. Expert Centre Chronic Fatigue, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands. [E-mail:]

PMID: 17369597

Background: Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) often have concentration and memory problems. Neuropsychological test performance is impaired in at least a subgroup of patients with CFS. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for CFS leads to a reduction in fatigue and disabilities.

Aim: To test the hypothesis that CBT results in a reduction of self-reported cognitive impairment and in an improved neuropsychological test performance.

Methods: Data of two previous randomized controlled trials were used. One study compared CBT for adult patients with CFS, with two control conditions. The second study compared CBT for adolescent patients with a waiting list condition. Self-reported cognitive impairment was assessed with questionnaires.

Information speed was measured with simple and choice reaction time tasks. Adults also completed the symbol digit-modalities task, a measure of complex attentional function.

Results: In both studies, the level of self-reported cognitive impairment decreased significantly more after CBT than in the control conditions.

Neuropsychological test performance did not improve.

Conclusion: CBT leads to a reduction in self-reported cognitive impairment, but not to improved neuropsychological test performance. The findings of this study support the idea that the distorted perception of cognitive processes is more central to CFS than actual cognitive performance.

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