Associations between cognitive performance and pain in chronic fatigue syndrome: comorbidity with fibromyalgia does matter

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract (Journal)


Background: In addition to the frequently reported pain complaints, performance-based cognitive capabilities in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) with and without comorbid fibromyalgia (FM) are significantly worse than those of healthy controls. In various chronic pain populations cognitive impairments are known to be related to pain severity, and endogenous pain inhibition is impaired in both CFS and FM.
Purpose: This study aimed at examining the association between cognitive performance and self-reported as well as experimental pain measurements in CFS patients with and without FM.
Methods: Forty-eight (18 CFS-only and 30 CFS+FM) patients and 30 healthy controls were studied. Participants first completed 3 performance-based cognitive tests designed to assess selective and sustained attention, cognitive inhibition, and working memory capacity. Seven days later, experimental pain measurements (pressure pain thresholds (PPT), temporal summation (TS), and conditioned pain modulation CPM) took place and participants were asked to fill out 3 questionnaires to assess self-reported pain, fatigue, and depressive symptoms.
Results: In the CFS+FM group, a better CPM was found to be a significant predictor of cognitive performance. Self-reported pain seemed to be a significant predictor for simple reaction time in CFS-only patients. The CFS+FM but not the CFS-only group showed a significantly lower PPT and enhanced TS compared with controls.
Conclusions: The results underline disease heterogeneity in CFS by indicating that a measure of endogenous pain inhibition is a significant predictor of cognitive performance in CFS patients with FM, while self-reported pain appears more appropriate to predict cognitive performance in CFS patients without FM.
Implications: Thisshows that by reducing the heterogeneity of CFS, we gain more insight in how cognitive dysfunctions can cluster with pain (modulation) in subgroups of the disorder.
Key-words: 1. Chronic pain 2. Cognitive dysfunctions 3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Funding acknowledgements: The study was funded by ME Research UK, a national charity funding biomedical research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Ethics approval: The study was approved by the ethics committees of the University Hospital Brussels/Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University Hospital Antwerp.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-852
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventWorld Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT 2015) - Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 1 Jun 20155 Jun 2015


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