Stress-related exhaustion is associated with cognitive deficits, measured subjectively using questionnaires targeting everyday slips and failures or more objectively as performance on cognitive tests. Yet, only weak associations between subjective and objective cognitive measures in this group has been presented, theorized to reflect recruitment of compensational resources during cognitive testing. This explorative study investigated how subjectively reported symptoms of cognitive functioning and burnout levels relate to performance as well as neural activation during a response inhibition task. To this end, 56 patients diagnosed with stress-related exhaustion disorder (ED; ICD-10 code F43.8A) completed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) using a Flanker paradigm. In order to investigate associations between neural activity and subjective cognitive complaints (SCCs) and burnout, respectively, scores on the Prospective and Retrospective Memory Questionnaire (PRMQ) and the Shirom-Melamed Burnout Questionnaire (SMBQ) were added as covariates of interest to a general linear model at the whole-brain level. In agreement with previous research, the results showed that SCCs and burnout levels were largely unrelated to task performance. Moreover, we did not see any correlations between these self-report measures and altered neural activity in frontal brain regions. Instead, we observed an association between the PRMQ and increased neural activity in an occipitally situated cluster. We propose that this finding may reflect compensational processes at the level of basic visual attention which could go unnoticed in cognitive testing but still be reflected in the experience of deficits in everyday cognitive functioning.
|Journal||Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress|
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2023|