A study published in the January 2011, edition of Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology showed that 17% of patients who suffer from chronic spinal pain complained of difficulty concentrating while 20% had problems recalling information. They also fared poorly on attention, mental flexibility, and visuomotor tests compared to healthier participants. Dysfunction in younger patients was intensified by pain and further by anxiety. For the older ones, it was worsened by exaggerated fears of their condition.
Supporting research by scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois compared 26 healthy volunteers and 26 patients suffering from chronic lower back pain for six months and longer. It was found that chronic back pain causes the grey matter, the part responsible for memory and information processing, to shrink by as much as 11% each year compared to 0.5% loss with normal aging. This means the brain ages 20x faster. Those with sciatica were found to have the largest reduction.