Objective: To examine the impact of distraction on the retention of rehearsed information in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).
Methods: Data refer to the neurocognitive examination of 134 patients (91 with FMS and 43 control subjects) presenting with memory loss. Four neurocognitive measures free of distraction, along with 2 measures with added distraction, were completed. Differences in the retention of rehearsed and unrehearsed information with a source of distraction present were calculated.
Results: Patients with FMS showed normal cognitive functioning on verbal memory tests free of distraction. Adding a source of distraction caused unrefreshed information to be lost at a disproportionate rate in patients with FMS. Over 87% of patients with FMS scored in the impaired range on a task of unrehearsed verbal memory. Adding a source of distraction to well-rehearsed information produced a normal rate of recall in FMS.
Conclusion: Rehearsal mechanisms are intact in patients with FMS and play beneficial roles in managing interference from a source of distraction. In the absence of rehearsal, a source of distraction added to unrefreshed information signals a remarkable level of cognitive deficit in FMS that goes undetected by conventionally relied-upon neurocognitive measures. We present a theory to promote understanding of the cognitive deficit of people with FMS based on reduced speed of lexical activation and poor recall after distraction.