Brain fog in central disorders of hypersomnolence: a review

Russell Rosenberg, Michael J. Thorpy, Karl Doghramji, Anne Marie Morse

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Brain fog is an undefined term describing a cluster of symptoms related to fatigue and impaired memory, attention, and concentration. Brain fog or brain fog–like symptoms have been reported in central disorders of hypersomnolence and in a range of seemingly unrelated disorders, including coronavirus disease 2019, major depressive disorder, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and celiac disease. This narrative review summarizes current evidence and proposes a consensus definition for brain fog. Brain fog is prevalent in narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia, with more than three-quarters of patients with either disorder reporting this symptom in a registry study; it has also been reported as particularly difficult to treat in idiopathic hypersomnia. Studies directly evaluating brain fog are rare; tools for evaluating this symptom cluster typically are patient reports, with few objective measures validated in any disorder. Evaluating brain fog is further complicated by confounding symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, which is a hallmark of hypersomnolence disorders. No treatments specifically address brain fog. The paucity of literature, assessment tools, and medications for brain fog highlights the need for research leading to better disambiguation and treatment. Until a clear consensus definition is established, we propose brain fog in hypersomnia disorders be defined as a cognitive dysfunction that may or may not be linked with excessive sleepiness, related to an underlying neuronal dysfunction, which reduces concentration and impairs information processing, leading to a complaint of lack of clarity of mental thinking and awareness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-651
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024

Keywords

  • brain fog
  • cognition
  • idiopathic hypersomnia
  • narcolepsy
  • sleep disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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