Causes of cognitive impairment
How common is cognitive impairment among pain populations, and what are some of the causes?
Decrements in cognitive functioning are common among pain populations, although the severity varies greatly by the type of pain condition, developmental stage of the patient, types of treatments they have received, and their age and gender. Cognitive impairments often manifest and can include difficulties in attention, problem solving, perception, working memory, learning, and psychomotor ability. Although the precise mechanisms responsible are not fully known, it is known that the brain’s circuitry changes with chronic pain and cognitive impairments can influence the processing and sensitivity to pain, decision-making, and experience of emotion, and impact daily functioning. There is some research that implicates medications, overlapping brain regions, and neurochemical substrates of pain and cognition, and changes in grey matter over time. Research has recently found that patients with long-standing pain disorders may show decreases in cerebral volume—a change that has also been found to remit when the pain is under control.