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Optimizing Cognitive Function in Persons With Chronic Pain

Baker, Katharine S. BPsySc (Hons); Georgiou-Karistianis, Nellie PhD; Gibson, Stephen J. PhD; Giummarra, Melita J. PhD

The Clinical Journal of Pain: May 2017 - Volume 33 - Issue 5 - p 462–472
doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000423
Review Article

Objectives: Cognitive functioning is commonly disrupted in people living with chronic pain, yet it is an aspect of pain that is often not routinely assessed in pain management settings, and there is a paucity of research on treatments or strategies to alleviate the problem. The purpose of this review is to outline recent research on cognitive deficits seen in chronic pain, to give an overview of the mechanisms involved, advocate cognitive functioning as an important target for treatment in pain populations, and discuss ways in which it may be assessed and potentially remediated.

Methods: A narrative review.

Results: There are several options for remediation, including compensatory, restorative, and neuromodulatory approaches to directly modify cognitive functioning, as well as physical, psychological, and medication optimization methods to target secondary factors (mood, sleep, and medications) that may interfere with cognition.

Discussion: We highlight the potential to enhance cognitive functions and identify the major gaps in the research literature.

*Caulfield Pain Management and Research Clinic, Caulfield

School of Psychological Sciences

§School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine

Institute of Safety, Compensation & Recovery Research, Monash University, Melbourne

National Ageing Research Institute, Parkville, Vic., Australia

The project was supported by doctoral project funding to K.S.B. from the School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Vic., Australia. M.J.G. is supported by an NHMRC early career fellowship (APP1036124). The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Katharine S. Baker, BPsySc (Hons), School of Psychological Sciences, 18 Innovation Walk, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton VIC 3800, Australia (e-mail:

Received March 5, 2016

Received in revised form October 25, 2016

Accepted July 21, 2016

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