Multiple Measurements Reveal Fibromyalgia Patients Have a Deficit in Attention

Multiple Measurements Reveal Fibromyalgia Patients Have a Deficit in Attention

fatigueA research team of the University of Jaen in Spain recently examined the cerebral blood flow (CBF) and heart rate (HR) responses during a cued reaction time (RT) task in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). The study is published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a noninflammatory chronic disorder characterized by persistent and widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by symptoms such as morning stiffness, depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. The prevalence of FMS is projected at 2–4% in the general population; sufferers are predominantly females. While its precise etiology remains unknown, FMS symptoms substantially reduce quality of life and can lead to extensive use of health care systems. Subjective cognitive complaints are also frequently reported by FMS patients, including memory problems, forgetfulness, concentration difficulties, and loss of vocabulary

In their study titled “Reaction time, cerebral blood flow, and heart rate responses in fibromyalgia: Evidence of alterations in attentional control,” Gustavo A. Reyes del Paso and colleagues, using functional transcranial Doppler sonography (fTCD), recorded the CBF velocities in the middle (MCA) and anterior (ACA) cerebral arteries of both hemispheres of 46 patients and 32 healthy participants. The results revealed that patients with FMS had longer RT compared to the healthy participants.

The researchers found differences between the two groups in CBF responses particularly both ACAs, with greater right hemispherical increases but lower left hemispherical increases in FMS patients than in healthy participants. Compared to patients with FMS, healthy participants had HR deceleration around the imperative stimulus.

The results also revealed that the RT was not associated with an increase in CBF in both right arteries and in the left ACA in the FMS group. However, RT was associated with CBF responses in all four arteries in the group of healthy participants. In both groups the results showed that the magnitude of task-induced HR deceleration was not associated with RT. Patients’ pain severity was associated with RT and CBF responses; insomnia and trait anxiety were negative predictors of CBF responses.

Based on these results, the researchers indicate in patients with FMS there is a marked deficit in the alertness component of attention at behavioral, CBF, and autonomic levels. Clinical factors such as anxiety, pain, and sleep disturbances can affect cognition in FMS by interfering with CBF adjustment to cognitive demands.