Objective: In this paper we review critically the current status of neurocognitive studies in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Method: CFS literature was monitored as part of a large research project which involved several neuropsychological and psychopathological studies. The literature survey was the result of several consecutive searches on Medline and PsycInfo databases.
Results: The neurocognitive studies are reviewed in terms of scientificaly accepted aspects of attention and memory. In addition, we review possible explanations for cognitive dysfunction in CFS. This is preceded with a discussion of the methodological limitations that are considered to explain inconcistencies across neuropsychological studies in CFS.
Conclusion: The current research shows that slowed processing speed, impaired working memory and poor learning of information are the most prominent features of cognitive dysfunctioning in patients with CFS. Furthermore, to this date no specific pattern of cerebral abnormalities has been found that uniquely characterizes CFS patients. There is no overwhelming evidence that fatigue is related to cognitive performance in CFS, and researchers agree that their performance on neuropsychological tasks is unlikely to be accounted solely by the severity of the depression and anxiety.