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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Jun 2023 - 30 Jun 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Musculoskeletal Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jun 06

Clin Pract




The Role of Serotonergic and Noradrenergic Descending Pathways on Performance-Based Cognitive Functioning at Rest and in Response to Exercise in People with Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study.


Coppieters I, Nijs J, Meeus M, De Kooning M, Rheel E, Huysmans E, Pas R, Van Bogaert W, Hubloue I, Ickmans K


(1) Background: Dysregulation in serotonergic and noradrenergic systems may be implicated in the neurobiophysiological mechanisms underlying pain-related cognitive impairment in chronic whiplash-associated disorders (CWAD). This study aimed to unravel the role of serotonergic and noradrenergic descending pathways in cognitive functioning at rest and in response to exercise in people with CWAD. (2) Methods: 25 people with CWAD were included in this double-blind, randomized, controlled crossover study. Endogenous descending serotonergic and noradrenergic inhibitory mechanisms were modulated by using a single dose of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (Citalopram) or a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (Atomoxetine). Cognitive performance was studied at rest and in response to exercise (1) without medication intake; (2) after intake of Citalopram; and (3) after intake of Atomoxetine. (3) Results: After Atomoxetine intake, selective attention improved compared with the no medication day ( < 0.05). In contrast, a single dose of Citalopram had no significant effect on cognitive functioning at rest. When performing pairwise comparisons, improvements in selective attention were found after exercise for the no medication condition ( < 0.05). In contrast, after intake of Citalopram or Atomoxetine, selective and sustained attention worsened after exercise. (4) Conclusions: A single dose of Atomoxetine improved selective attention only in one Stroop condition, and a single dose of Citalopram had no effect on cognitive functioning at rest in people with CWAD. Only without medication intake did selective attention improve in response to exercise, whereas both centrally acting medications worsened cognitive performance in response to a submaximal aerobic exercise bout in people with CWAD.