Testing cognitive abilities — like learning and memory, processing speed, and verbal fluency — can give valuable clues as to how well people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are able to go about their daily lives, according to a review study led by Kessler Foundation researchers.
Neuropsychological tests are of “significant predictive value regarding everyday life activity,” the team wrote, but they need to be paired with other measures of disease status and progression to fully understand the “impact of MS disease on everyday functioning.”
The review study, “Beyond cognitive dysfunction: Relevance of ecological validity of neuropsychological tests in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
An estimated 43% to 70% of MS patients experience cognitive difficulties in addition to the physical challenges that characterize this disease.
Changes in cognitive skills can greatly affect a patient’s ability to perform common tasks, such as cooking, driving, managing money, and finding or holding a job. Neuropsychological testing and close monitoring of patients’ neuropsychological changes are, for these reasons, critical steps in adequate patient care and in improving overall outcome.
The role of neuropsychological tests has evolved significantly with the development and refinement of neuroimaging techniques (like an MRI), which also now allow clinicians to link these cognitive changes with visualized physical changes or areas of damage in the brain.
Increasing evidence suggests that neuropsychological tests are useful in assessing real-world behaviors and performance, with several studies showing an association between test results and driving ability or employment.
However, these findings are controversial, as other studies could not replicate their associations. This failure raises questions as the validity of neuropsychological tests, and their ability to predict patient outcomes.
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