Executive function and decision-making in women with fibromyalgia

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2009 Feb;24(1):113-22. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acp014. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Patients with fibromyalgia (FM) typically report cognitive problems, and they state that these deficits are disturbing in everyday life. Despite these substantial subjective complaints by FM patients, very few studies have addressed objectively the effect of such aversive states on neuropsychological performance. In this study we aimed to examine possible impairment of executive function and decision-making in a sample of 36 women diagnosed with FM and 36 healthy women matched in age, education, and socio-economic status. We contrasted performance of both groups on two measures of executive functioning: the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), which assesses cognitive flexibility skills, and the Iowa Gambling Tasks (IGT; original and variant versions), which assess emotion-based decision-making. We also examined the relationship between executive function performance and pain experience, and between executive function and personality traits of novelty-seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, and persistence (measured by the Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised). Results showed that on the WCST, FM women showed poorer performance than healthy comparison women on the number of categories and non-perseverative errors, but not on perseverative errors. FM patients also showed altered learning curve in the original IGT (where reward is immediate and punishment is delayed), suggesting compromised emotion-based decision-making; but not in the variant IGT (where punishment is immediate but reward is delayed), suggesting hypersensitivity to reward. Personality variables were very mildly associated with cognitive performance in FM women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / complications
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition*
  • Decision Making*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / complications
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pain / psychology
  • Personality
  • Severity of Illness Index