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Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Jun 15;61(6):740-4. doi: 10.1002/art.24559.

Normalizing memory recall in fibromyalgia with rehearsal: a distraction-counteracting effect.

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Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



To examine the impact of distraction on the retention of rehearsed information in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).


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.


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.


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.

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