Kessler Foundation scientist Silvana Costa, PhD, was awarded a $477,000 grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) to explore the effects of visual, cognitive, and motor deficits on information processing speed in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Costa is an associate research scientist in neuropsychology and neuroscience research. She was the Kessler Foundation’s first Hearst fellow, and was previously the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research distinguished Switzer research fellow.
MS patients often experience significant visual, cognitive, and motor impairments, which can negatively impact of their overall quality of life. Information processing speed — how fast an individual can take in and use incoming information — is one of the most common cognitive dysfunctions in MS, but scientists don’t yet fully understand the causes behind it.
Costa plans to conduct a four-year study that will examine the visual, cognitive, and motor functioning deficits that affect MS patients. She will also investigate the effect of each of these domains on information processing speed.
“Understanding how these deficits make independent contributions to information processing speed will have significant implications for the way we conceptualize, evaluate, and rehabilitate this common impairment,” Costa said in a press release.
The study will use multiple tools including neuropsychological evaluations and eye-tracking technology. These will allow researchers to observe how MS patients perform cognitive tasks, such as reading, while simultaneously recording eye movement as patients do the tasks.
Some of these tools were previously validated in the study, “Comparing the Open Trial — Selective Reminding Test results with the California Learning Verbal Test II in multiple sclerosis,” published in Applied Neuropsychology: Adult.
Researchers compared two tests, the California Learning Verbal Test II (CVLT II) and the Open Trial-Selective Reminding Test (OT-SRT), in assessing learning in 112 individuals with MS, 79 women and 33 men. These two tests are the most common neuropsychological measures to assess learning and memory in MS.
Results showed clear differences in performance between both tests: Use of the CVLT II or OT-SRT can lead to significant differences in defining participants’ learning abilities as impaired or not impaired.
In Costa’s study, the idea is that combining neuropsychological evaluations and eye-tracking technology will help provide additional insight into the cognitive function of MS patients.
For more information about the study, Kessler Foundation’s research recruitment specialist can be contacted here.
Kessler Foundation is a worldwide leader in rehabilitation research aimed at improving cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes for people with disabilities attributed to neurological diseases such as MS.
NMSS is a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City with chapters throughout the U.S. It funds research, supports social and political change, provides education, and sponsors services to help MS patients and their loved ones.