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      Psychosocial factors involved in memory and cognitive failures in people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

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          Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is characterized by persistent emotional, mental, and physical fatigue accompanied by a range of neurological, autonomic, neuroendocrine, immune, and sleep problems. Research has shown that psychosocial factors such as anxiety and depression as well as the symptoms of the illness, have a significant impact on the quality of life of people with ME/CFS. In addition, individuals may suffer from deficits in memory and concentration. This study set out to explore the relationships between variables which have been found to contribute to cognitive performance, as measured by prospective and retrospective memory, and cognitive failures.


          Eighty-seven people with ME/CFS answered questionnaires measuring fatigue, depression, anxiety, social support, and general self-efficacy. These were used in a correlational design (multiple regression) to predict cognitive function (self-ratings on prospective and retrospective memory), and cognitive failures.


          Our study found that fatigue, depression, and general self-efficacy were directly associated with cognitive failures and retrospective (but not prospective) memory.


          Although it was not possible in this study to determine the cause of the deficits, the literature in this area leads us to suggest that although the pathophysiological mechanisms of ME/CFS are unclear, abnormalities in the immune system, including proinflammatory cytokines, can lead to significant impairments in cognition. We suggest that fatigue and depression may be a result of the neurobiological effects of ME/CFS and in addition, that the neurobiological effects of the illness may give rise to both fatigue and cognitive deficits independently.

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          Most cited references 54

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          The MOS social support survey.

          This paper describes the development and evaluation of a brief, multidimensional, self-administered, social support survey that was developed for patients in the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS), a two-year study of patients with chronic conditions. This survey was designed to be comprehensive in terms of recent thinking about the various dimensions of social support. In addition, it was designed to be distinct from other related measures. We present a summary of the major conceptual issues considered when choosing items for the social support battery, describe the items, and present findings based on data from 2987 patients (ages 18 and older). Multitrait scaling analyses supported the dimensionality of four functional support scales (emotional/informational, tangible, affectionate, and positive social interaction) and the construction of an overall functional social support index. These support measures are distinct from structural measures of social support and from related health measures. They are reliable (all Alphas greater than 0.91), and are fairly stable over time. Selected construct validity hypotheses were supported.
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            The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) and its correlates.

            This paper describes a questionnaire measure of self-reported failures in perception, memory, and motor function. Responses to all questions tend to be positively correlated, and the whole questionnaire correlates with other recent measures of self-reported deficit in memory, absent-mindedness, or slips of action. The questionnaire is however only weakly correlated with indices of social desirability set or of neuroticism. It is significantly correlated with ratings of the respondent by his or her spouse, and accordingly does have some external significance rather than purely private opinion of the self. The score is reasonably stable over long periods, to about the same extent as traditional measures of trait rather than state. Furthermore, it has not thus far been found to change in persons exposed to life-stresses. However, it does frequently correlate with the number of current psychiatric symptoms reported by the same person on the MHQ; and in one study it has been found that CFQ predicts subsequent MHQ in persons who work at a stressful job in the interval. It does not do so in those who work in a less stressful environment. The most plausible view is that cognitive failure makes a person vulnerable to showing bad effects of stress, rather than itself resulting from stress.
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              The assessment of fatigue: a practical guide for clinicians and researchers.

              Fatigue is a common feature of physical and neurological disease as well as psychiatric disorders, often reported amongst patients' most severe and distressing symptoms. A large number of scales have been developed attempting to measure the nature, severity and impact of fatigue in a range of clinical populations. The aim of the present review is to guide the clinician and researcher in choosing a scale to suit their needs. Database searches of Medline, PsycINFO and EMBASE were undertaken to find published scales. Details of 30 scales are reported. These vary greatly in how widely they have been used and how well they have been evaluated. The present review describes the scales and their properties and provides illustrations of their use in published studies. Recommendations are made for the selection of a scale and for the development and validation of new and existing scales.

                Author and article information

                Psychol Res Behav Manag
                Psychol Res Behav Manag
                Psychology Research and Behavior Management
                Dove Medical Press
                25 February 2014
                : 7
                : 67-76
                [1 ]Chronic Illness Research Team, School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK
                [2 ]Department of Immunology and the Sutton CFS Service, St Helier Hospital, Carshalton, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Megan A Arroll, University of East London, School of Psychology, Stratford Campus, Water Lane, London, UK E15 4LZ, Fax +44 208 223 4937, Email m.a.arroll@
                © 2014 Attree et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Ltd, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Ltd, provided the work is properly attributed.

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