EFFECTS OF MILD UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT ILLNESSES ON MOOD AND COGNITION
Andrew P. Smith*
Background: The aetiology and pathogenesis of mild upper respiratory tract illnesses (MURTIs) are well-documented. These illnesses lead to malaise, which reflects reduced well-being, fatigue and impaired performance. This was examined in the present study. Methods: Sixty volunteers participated in the study. Twenty-one of these had a MURTI at the first test session. They returned for a second test session when they were healthy. They were compared with thirty-nine participants who were healthy on both occasions. Mood rating and cognitive performance tasks were carried out in each test session, and a symptom checklist was completed. Results: The first analyses compared those with MURTIs with the healthy group. The MURTI group were less alert and had slower reaction times in simple and choice reaction time tasks. They detected fewer targets in a sustained attention task and were less accurate on a verbal reasoning task. Specific comparisons were then made between the healthy (N=39), sore throat (N=6), cough (N=3), and headache (N=6) groups. All symptom groups were less alert than the healthy group. The headache group showed the greatest impairments with reduced recall of a list of words and attention problems. Conclusion: Individuals with a MURTI were less alert and had a more negative mood than those who were healthy. They also responded more slowly on simple and choice reaction time tasks, had impaired sustained attention, and had less accurate verbal reasoning. Analysis of the specific symptom groups confirmed that having a headache was associated with the greatest impairment. Future research must now examine whether therapies can remove the malaise associated with MURTIs.
Keywords: Mild upper respiratory tract illnesses (MURTIs); Cough; Sore throat; Headache; Reaction time; Alertness; Cognition; Hedonic tone.
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