The effect of cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome on self-reported cognitive impairments and neuropsychological test performance

Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nymegen, Gelderland, Netherlands
Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.81). 05/2007; 78(4):434-6. DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.2006.100974
Source: PubMed


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 behavioural therapy (CBT) for CFS leads to a reduction in fatigue and disabilities.
To test the hypothesis that CBT results in a reduction of self-reported cognitive impairment and in an improved neuropsychological test performance.
Data of two previous randomised 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.
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.
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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    • "Although several health problems were targeted in these Internet-based studies, there are gaps in the literature in terms of treatments for health problems which have been found to improve by means of CBT. For example, several studies have examined the effects of CBT for chronic fatigue syndrome (Knoop et al. 2007), fibromyalgia (Garcia et al. 2006), incontinence (Garley and Unwin 2006), or multiple sclerosis (Thomas et al. 2006), but these Table 2 Main outcomes of studies on Internet-based cognitive behavioral interventions for health problems "
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