Neurocognitive Difficulties Among Youth with POTS within an Intensive Pain Rehabilitation Program

Michele Tsai Owens, Cynthia Harbeck-Weber, Alexandra Kirsch, Leslie Sim, Michael J Zaccariello, Kendra Homan, Philip Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) commonly report cognitive difficulties, though there is limited information regarding the objective measurement of neurocognitive deficits in this population. This study described the rates of subjectively experienced and objectively measured neurocognitive difficulties and explored effects of medications on neurocognitive functioning among AYAs with POTS admitted to an intensive outpatient pain rehabilitation program. METHODS: Participants in a pain rehabilitation program diagnosed with POTS (N = 96; ages 12-22) were included in the study. Medical characteristics, reported cognitive complaints, and neurocognitive assessment results were collected through retrospective medical record review. We calculated descriptive statistics and Pearson's χ2 or Fisher's exact tests, where appropriate. RESULTS: While 96% of this sample reported subjective cognitive complaints, as a group, they performed in the Average range on standardized measures of intellectual functioning, attention, and memory. The majority did not demonstrate any normative (73%) or relative (54%) weaknesses in attention or memory. Those prescribed an antiepileptic (n = 19) were less likely to have visual-spatial memory weaknesses but more likely to have attention weaknesses. CONCLUSIONS: Despite a high frequency of reported cognitive difficulties, most AYAs with POTS did not demonstrate neurocognitive impairment on standardized, one-on-one assessment. Suggestions for further study of biopsychosocial contributors to neurocognitive difficulties and for clinical use of neurocognitive assessments in this population were provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-575
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • adolescents
  • brain fog
  • neurocognitive weaknesses
  • postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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