Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) frequently complain of cognitive dysfunction. However, evidence of cognitive impairment in CFS patients has been found in some, but not other, studies. This heterogeneity in findings may stem from the relative presence of mental fatigue in the patient populations examined. The present study assessed this possibility in a population-based sample of CFS patients. In all, 43 patients with CFS defined by the criteria of the 1994 research case definition using measurements recommended by the 2003 International CFS Study Group, and 53 age-, sex-, and race/ethnicity-matched nonfatigued subjects were included in the study. Mental fatigue was assessed using the mental fatigue subscale of the multidimensional fatigue inventory. Cognitive function was evaluated using an automated battery of computerized tests (Cambridge neuropsychological test automated battery (CANTAB)) that assessed psychomotor function, planning and problem-solving abilities, and memory and attentional performance. CFS patients with significant complaints of mental fatigue (score of mental fatigue 2 standard deviations above the mean of nonfatigued subjects) exhibited significant impairment in the spatial working memory and sustained attention (rapid visual information processing) tasks when compared to CFS patients with low complaints of mental fatigue and nonfatigued subjects. In CFS patients with significant mental fatigue, sustained attention performance was impaired only in the final stages of the test, indicating greater cognitive fatigability in these patients. CFS patients with low mental fatigue displayed performance comparable to nonfatigued subjects on all tests of the CANTAB battery. These findings show strong concordance between subjective complaints of mental fatigue and objective measurement of cognitive impairment in CFS patients and suggest that mental fatigue is an important component of CFS-related cognitive dysfunction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health