Objective: To understand more about the problems children with CFS/ME experience with their memory and attention, and to test the feasibility of quantitative measurement of both memory and attention.
Design: 4 item semi-structured questionnaire and Neuropsychological test battery with 10 psychometric subtests.
Setting: Family home of the child taking part.
Patients: 20 children with a diagnosis of CFS/ME and experiencing memory and/or concentration problems were recruited between April and October 2007 from a regional CFS/ME clinical service (Female=13; Average age 13.5yrs; Range 8 – 16 yrs).
Methods: Each child, parent and teacher was asked to describe the child’s memory and attention problems. Responses were subject to thematic analysis by two independent researchers. In addition each child completed a battery of 10 tests to measure: Processing speed; Attention; Immediate and Delayed Memory; Working Memory; Executive Function. Raw scores were converted into age-scaled scores and the children’s psychometric scores on the 10 tests taken were compared with normative data using t-tests.
Results: Children with CFS/ME, their parents and teachers described problems with focussed attention, sustained attention, recall and stress. Children’s scores were compared to normative data. Scores for sustained attention (mean 8.1, 95% CI 6.3-9.9), switching attention (7.5, 5.5-9.4), divided attention (6.9, 5.5-8.2), auditory learning (8.2, 6.8-9.6) and immediate recall (8.7, 7.3-10.0) appeared lower than the normative mean of 10.
Conclusions: Children with CFS/ME appear to experience problems with attention, which may have adverse implications for verbal memory.
These cognitive problems may explain some of the educational difficulties associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.