Identifying (psycho)physiology-based subgroups in chronic fatigue syndrome and their relevance for rehabilitation
About 20 000 people in Belgium suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a disorder characterized by persisting fatigue insufficiently explained by known medical or psychiatric conditions. Dysfunction of several (psycho)physiological systems, such as the stress response system (including the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and the autonomic nervous system), the immune system (systemic inflammation), and the central nervous system (including neuroinflammation and changes in functional connectivity in the brain) has been shown in CFS. Health psychology research, on the other hand, has demonstrated distortions in symptom perception in CFS. However, both research lines have not sufficiently been integrated, which is needed to overcome dualistic wars that have hampered progress in understanding and treating CFS. Specifically, it is poorly understood how the abovementioned dysfunctions relate to the experience of physical symptoms by CFS patients, particularly the perception of physical and mental fatigue. The aim of this project is therefore to investigate the complex relationships between fatigue perception and different psychophysiological dysfunctions in CFS patients, to identify subgroups based on these (psycho)physiological dysfunctions and relate these to rehabilitation success. This is urgently needed to develop a refined integrative pathophysiological model of this disabling though poorly understood disorder, for which treatment options are currently limited.