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Electrical injury (EI) is a significant, multifaceted trauma often with multi-domain cognitive sequelae, even when the expected current path does not pass through the brain. Chronic pain (CP) research suggests pain may affect cognition directly and indirectly by influencing emotional distress which then impacts cognitive functioning. As chronic pain may be critical to understanding EI-related cognitive difficulties, the aims of the current study were: examine the direct and indirect effects of pain on cognition following EI and compare the relationship between pain and cognition in EI and CP populations.
This cross-sectional study used data from a clinical sample of 50 patients with EI (84.0% male; Mage = 43.7 years) administered standardized measures of pain (Pain Patient Profile), depression, and neurocognitive functioning. A CP comparison sample of 93 patients was also included.
Higher pain levels were associated with poorer attention/processing speed and executive functioning performance among patients with EI. Depression was significantly correlated with pain and mediated the relationship between pain and attention/processing speed in patients with EI. When comparing the patients with EI and CP, the relationship between pain and cognition was similar for both clinical groups.
Findings indicate that pain impacts mood and cognition in patients with EI, and the influence of pain and its effect on cognition should be considered in the assessment and treatment of patients who have experienced an electrical injury.