Cognitive impairments, such as memory and concentration problems, are common in fatigue syndromes. But this can be improved by cognitive training – which also has a positive effect on recovery, according to a study by Umeo University.
In a new doctoral dissertation on psychology, Hanna Malmberg Gavelin, a psychology researcher at Umeo University, explores the effects of two different treatments: a computer-based cognitive workout or physical training that is offered as a supplement to the stress rehabilitation program in people with syndrome of fatigue. It turned out that cognitive training leads to an improvement in cognitive function, which remains one year after the end of treatment. Physical fitness training led to improvement of memory function immediately after treatment, but no long-term follow-up showed any difference with the control group.
"Our results show that it is possible to improve cognitive function in people suffering from fatigue syndrome. This is important knowledge because the problems of memory and ability to concentrate are an important symptom for these individuals, "says Hanna Malmberg Gavelin.
Greater improvement with cognitive training
The dissertation also examines whether the addition of cognitive or physical exercise can have a positive effect on mental health and work capacity. All groups improved over time with these results, but participants who completed cognitive training showed a greater improvement in burnout symptoms than those who underwent stress rehabilitation without further training. They also felt that memory had improved.
"We have found some support for the fact that cognitive learning can have a positive effect on the recovery process," says Hanna Malmberg Gavelin.
A partial study examines how fatigue syndrome affects the function of the brain. The participants had to perform a task in the memory while they undergo a functional examination of a magnetic camera to measure the pattern of brain activity. Patients with a high degree of fatigue turned out to activate parts of the brain that are more important to working memory than those with less fatigue, despite the fact that they performed the task equally well.
– This may mean that people with more severe fatigue have to do more to cope with the task. It is possible that a person suffering from fatigue syndrome can compensate for cognitive impairment for a limited period of time at the expense of, for example, mental fatigue, Hannah says.
Additional support may be required
Overall, the thesis emphasizes the importance of reporting and cognitive impairment in stress-related illnesses. Many participants feel that it is difficult to manage and succeed in completing the training. Therefore, people with fatigue syndrome may need additional support to perform this type of exercise.
"Knowledge and knowledge of how we can treat cognitive impairments in the best way is important for the rehabilitation of many people who currently suffer from stress-related illnesses," says Hanna Malmberg Gavelin.
Rehabilitation for a better understanding of stress-related exhaustion: a cognitive, neuronal and clinical point of view
Hanna Malmberg Gavelin, certified psychologist and PhD student at the Department of Psychology, University of Umea, [email protected]