Fibromyalgia and cognition: five facts, hypotheses and many doubts.

Beyond pain, or precisely because of it, the cognitive alterations of people with fibromyalgia are very common. Thinking costs more when you have fibromyalgia. The causes are still unclear, but something is known.

Fibromyalgia for many is just pain and what a mistake! Although a greater sensitivity to pain is a central feature of this disease, another long list of symptoms accompanies the person with fibromyalgia.

When you suffer from fibromyalgia, the brain areas that are responsible for processing the pain respond in an anomalous way. The most affected parts of the body are usually the back side of the neck, thorax, lower back, hips, buttocks, elbows and knees.

So far, the causes of this disorder are unknown.

But fibromyalgia, as we said, is not only a pain disorder, but is accompanied by a cognitive impairment. This, perhaps, is a less discussed point. So let’s go there, to look for what is known about fibromyalgia and cognition.


In general, the most affected functions are memory and attention.

There is a type of memory called working memory . This memory keeps a limited group of important information for tasks that we are doing in the present moment and is fundamental for various activities (work, study, tactical thinking in athletes or in a simple game of cards).

Recent research has shown that, compared to people without fibromyalgia of the same sex and age, those affected by the disease have a worse functioning of this cognitive capacity.


Researchers have established that the cognitive performance of an average adult affected by fibromyalgia is similar to that of an older adult who is not affected by the disease.

This led to think that fibromyalgia was associated with cognitive aging, however, in the latter case the problems of these functions are based largely average in the slow processing that increases with age and has been shown to speed processing it is not affected with fibromyalgia.

We will have to keep looking, but the path of comparison with aging does not seem to be the best way to explain the cognitive alterations in fibromyalgia.


Because of the chronic and potentially disabling symptoms experienced by people with fibromyalgia, depression usually has a high incidence in this community. And depression , as we have explained previously, causes alterations in mental functioning.

But at this point there is nothing fully established: in various investigations even when the manifestations of depression have been controlled, alterations in the mental abilities to process information are still observed . Well, that, to continue investigating.


When we sleep, it is as if we were inside the most complete repair shop. Many of our vital functions wear out the organism during the day and, when we go to bed to sleep, an extensive restoration process begins that includes the mechanisms involved in our cognitive abilities.

In too many occasions, the sleep of people with fibromyalgia is disturbed, which also led scientists to doubt whether sleep is the key to understanding cognitive impairment in this disease . But until now the experimental designs have not confirmed this hypothesis.


Where a very close relationship has been found has been between pain and cognitive dysfunctions.

Although the mechanisms are still not completely known, it is thought that the management of chronic pain characteristic of fibromyalgia involves an extra cognitive effort that interferes with the performance of other tasks for which these functions are relevant.

This should still be confirmed, but it seems a plausible explanation. As soon as we have news about it, we will be here to tell you..


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