Cognitive dysfunction often goes hand-in-hand with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. Despite this, few tools for assessing memory problems have been validated in pain patients. A recent study in the journal PLOS ONE filled this gap by investigating the Test Your Memory (TYM) scale in patients with fibromyalgia and other pain conditions, validating it as a useful tool in clinical practice.
Scientists believe that cognitive processes underlie pain perception, adding the load of intricate pain processing to the usual cognitive demands on the brain. This might create, or contribute to, the mild cognitive impairment often observed in chronic pain patients and commonly manifested as memory and executive function problems.
Tests such as the Mini-Mental State Examination are often not sensitive enough to detect mild cognitive disruption, and the presence of simultaneous conditions such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance, along with the use of analgesic drugs, complicates any analysis of cognitive dysfunction in chronic pain patients. Moreover, the influence of a pain condition on cognitive abilities is likely linked to the type of pain — reflecting various underlying mechanisms.
Researchers at the University of Cádiz, Spain, explored the validity of the TYM scale — a tool developed to screen various groups of dementia patients — in fibromyalgia patients, as well as in patients with neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain.
The study, “Assessing the Construct Validity and Internal Reliability of the Screening Tool Test Your Memory in Patients with Chronic Pain,” included a total of 254 patients, including 51 with fibromyalgia, and 72 pain-free control individuals. Testing the scale against a row of other tools measuring cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, depression, sleep, and quality of life, the research team noted that the TYM scale could distinguish between individuals with pain and those without it.
Moreover, TYM results were correlated with results of the Mini-Mental State Examination — as well as with scales measuring anxiety, depression, sleep, and both the physical and mental components of a quality of life questionnaire.
Given that the TYM scale employs a short questionnaire that is easy and quick to apply, the authors believe that the tool might be broadly used in clinical practice.