Introduction The cognitive neurobiological model of IBS (Kennedy et al., 2012), a disorder of the brain-gut axis, proposes that key pathophysiological features, such as altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function, or heightened immune activity, may lead to impaired cognitive performance. Recently IBS patients were found to exhibit visuospatial memory deficits (Kennedy et al., 2013). However, a prospective assessment is essential to confirm if cognitive dysfunction is a stable feature of IBS.
Aims/Background To prospectively assess visuospatial memory performance in IBS, in comparison to disease controls Crohn's diesase (CD] and healthy controls (HC).
Method At baseline (Visit 1) and 6 months (Visit 2), IBS patients (baseline n=39; age (M): 28 yrs; IQ:105.5), matched CD patients (baseline n=18;age (M):32 yrs; IQ:103.4), and matched HC (baseline n=40;age (M):28 yrs; IQ:108.5), were assessed using a selection of cognitive tests from the CANTAB and Stroop test. Abdominal pain severity at time of testing was reported by IBS patients on a scale ranging from 0–100.
Results At Visit 1 & 2, IBS patients displayed visuospatial memory deficits [Paired Associates Learning (PAL) test]; greater errors at the 6 pattern stage (baseline: p<0.05), which also approached significance across Visit 1 & 2 (p=0.05); greater number of trials needed to complete the PAL Visit 1 & 2 (p<0.05). Pain severity did not correlate with PAL performance (p>0.05).
Conclusion Visuospatial memory dysfunction is a stable feature of IBS. These results may inform future management of this debilitating disorder in which there is a great unmet medical need.