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Patterns of Abnormal Visual Attention in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Hutchinson, Claire V.*; Badham, Stephen P.*

Optometry and Vision Science: June 2013 - Volume 90 - Issue 6 - p 607–614
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e318294c232

Purpose To experimentally assess visual attention difficulties commonly reported by those with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Methods Twenty-nine ME/CFS patients and 29 controls took part in the study. Performance was assessed using the Useful Field of View (UFOV), a spatial cueing task and visual search.

Results Patients and controls performed similarly on the processing speed subtest of the UFOV. However, patients exhibited marginally worse performance compared with controls on the divided attention subtest and significantly worse performance on the selective attention subtest. In the spatial cueing task, they were slower than controls to respond to the presence of the target, particularly when cues were invalid. They were also impaired, relative to controls, on visual search tasks.

Conclusions We have provided experimental evidence for ME/CFS-related difficulties in directing visual attention. These findings support the subjective reports of those with ME/CFS and could represent a potential means to improve diagnosis.


College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, Leicestershire (CVH, SPB); and School of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry (SPB), United Kingdom.

Claire V. Hutchinson College of Medicine Biological Sciences and Psychology School of Psychology University of Leicester Leicester Leicestershire LE2 3TQ United Kingdom e-mail:

© 2013 American Academy of Optometry