Attention deficits in patients with narcolepsy

Sleep. 2003 Feb 1;26(1):36-43.


Study objectives: Although attention problems are presumably responsible for a wide variety of difficulties patients with narcolepsy experience in everyday life, empirical investigation of this issue is scarce. Therefore, we conducted a systematic investigation of different aspects of attention and verbal memory in patients with narcolepsy.

Design: Control-group design with comparison of performance in four attention tests--measuring phasic alertness, focused attention, divided attention, and flexible attention--and one verbal memory test.

Participants: 19 patients with narcolepsy (NG) and 20 healthy controls (CG) MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: The NG showed no deficits in phasic alertness, focused attention, and verbal memory. However, specific deficits occurred in divided and flexible attention. Furthermore, the NG had generally slower and more variable reaction times in all attention tasks.

Conclusions: Our results contradict the hypothesis that attentional impairments in narcolepsy are merely a result of a temporal disturbance of information processing, i.e., deficits can be explained by slowness and variability of performance alone. Rather, deficits in attentional capacity and attentional control also seem to play an important role. Thus, in addition to impairment in the vigilance attention network, results indicate impairment in the executive attention network in patients with narcolepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcolepsy / complications
  • Narcolepsy / diagnosis
  • Narcolepsy / physiopathology*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reaction Time
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Vocabulary