TGI Friday! Our regular round-up of recently published research abstracts | 19 April 2013

From Frontiers in Integrative Physiology, 5 April 2013.

Caught in the thickness of brain fog: exploring the cognitive symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Ocon AJ.
Departments of Physiology/Medicine, Center for Hypotension, New York Medical College Valhalla, NY, USA.

Abstract

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is defined as greater than 6 months of persistent fatigue that is experienced physically and cognitively. The cognitive symptoms are generally thought to be a mild cognitive impairment, but individuals with CFS subjectively describe them as “brain fog.”

The impairment is not fully understood and often is described as slow thinking, difficulty focusing, confusion, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, or a haziness in thought processes. Causes of “brain fog” and mild cognitive impairment have been investigated.

Possible physiological correlates may be due to the effects of chronic orthostatic intolerance (OI) in the form of the Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and decreases in cerebral blood flow (CBF). In addition, fMRI studies suggest that individuals with CFS may require increased cortical and subcortical brain activation to complete difficult mental tasks.

Furthermore, neurocognitive testing in CFS has demonstrated deficits in speed and efficiency of information processing, attention, concentration, and working memory. The cognitive impairments are then perceived as an exaggerated mental fatigue.

As a whole, this is experienced by those with CFS as “brain fog” and may be viewed as the interaction of physiological, cognitive, and perceptual factors. Thus, the cognitive symptoms of CFS may be due to altered CBF activation and regulation that are exacerbated by a stressor, such as orthostasis or a difficult mental task, resulting in the decreased ability to readily process information, which is then perceived as fatiguing and experienced as “brain fog.”

Future research looks to further explore these interactions, how they produce cognitive impairments, and explain the perception of “brain fog” from a mechanistic standpoint.


From Immunologic Research, 11 April 2013.

Immunostimulation in the treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Proal AD, Albert PJ, Marshall TG, Blaney GP, Lindseth IA
Autoimmunity Research Foundation, 3423 Hill Canyon Ave, Thousand Oaks, CA,
91360, USA.

Abstract

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) has long been associated with the presence of infectious agents, but no single pathogen has been reliably identified in all patients with the disease.

Recent studies using metagenomic techniques have demonstrated the presence of thousands of microbes in the human body that were previously undetected
and unknown to science. More importantly, such species interact together by sharing genes and genetic function within communities.

It follows that searching for a singular pathogen may greatly underestimate the microbial complexity potentially driving a complex disease like CFS/ME. Intracellular microbes alter the expression of human genes in order to facilitate their survival.

We have put forth a model describing how multiple species-bacterial, viral, and fungal-can cumulatively dysregulate expression by the VDR nuclear receptor in order to survive and thus drive a disease process.

Based on this model, we have developed an immunostimulatory therapy that is showing promise inducing both subjective and objective improvement in patients suffering from CFS/ME.


From Chronic Illness, e-published ahead of print 12 April, 2013.

Couples’ experiences of interacting with outside others in chronic fatigue syndrome: a qualitative study

Joanna Brooks(1), Nigel King(1), Alison Wearden(2)
1. Centre for Applied Psychological Research, University of Huddersfield, UK
2. School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

Social isolation and stigma are frequently reported by patients with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and relationships in the home environment with those close to the patients (their ‘significant others’) may thus be particularly important. Rather little attention has yet been paid to the beliefs and experiences of ‘significant others’ themselves in this context. This study sought to explore in-depth the beliefs and experiences of both patients and ‘significant others’ in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

METHODS

In-depth interviews using a semi-structured interview schedule designed around the core constructs of the Common-Sense Model of self-regulation were conducted with two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and their spouses. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse interview data.

RESULTS

Experiences of social interactions in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis with others outside of the relationship dyad emerged as a key issue for all participants when reflecting on their experiences of living with the condition. These concerns are presented under two themes: interactions with healthcare professionals and interactions with the social world.

CONCLUSIONS

It is evident that significant others play an important role in the lived experience of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

For both patients and significant others, the wider social world and interactions with outside others may be important influences on dyadic coping in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Both future research and treatment interventions could usefully include a ‘significant other’ perspective.


From Chronic Illness, e-published ahead of print 12 April 2013.

Examining the energy envelope and associated symptom patterns in chronic fatigue syndrome: does coping matter?

Brown AA, Evans MA, Jason LA.
Center for Community Research, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE/Hypothesis

The objective of this study was to examine sub-types of individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome based on variables that are associated with the energy envelope theory and to examine the role of coping strategies in explaining the differences found between the subtypes.

METHODS

Cluster analysis was used. Grouping variables included physical functioning, post-exertional malaise severity, and the extent to which an individual was outside of the energy envelope. These clusters were evaluated using discriminant function analysis to determine whether they could be differentiated based on coping styles.

RESULTS

Cluster analysis identified three groups. Clusters 1 and 2 were consistent with the energy envelope theory. However, Cluster 3 was characterized by patients with the most impairment, but they were to a lesser extent exceeding their energy envelope. Coping strategies explained a small percentage (10%) of the variance in differentiating the clusters.

DISCUSSION

Energy maintenance may be associated with improved functioning and less severe symptoms for some. However, patients in Cluster 3 were closer to remaining within their energy envelope and also used higher levels of adaptive coping but were more impaired than Cluster 2.

This suggests that adaptive coping strategies were not associated with improved health, as members of Cluster 3 were severely limited in functioning.


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