Prospective memory — the ability to remember to carry out a future task — is significantly impaired in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, and may contribute to worse cognitive performance for everyday tasks, according to recent research.
Cognitive impairment has been reported extensively in MS patients, and research indicates that memory deficits can be a contributing factor. Researchers estimate that 40–65% of MS patients experience objective memory impairment.
However, most studies have examined retrospective memory, which is the capacity to recall past information. Recent studies in other diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, have indicated that deterioration of prospective memory is linked to poor everyday functioning.
In MS, researchers have found that self-reported prospective memory loss correlates with the risk of unemployment, pointing to a possible association between that memory impairment and cognitive deficits.
Prospective memory comprises two types of memory: time-based and event-based. Time-based prospective memory refers to tasks in which time is monitored to perform a future intention — for example remembering to call a friend in two hours. In event-based prospective memory, the cue to remember comes from the environment — for example remembering to mail a letter when you drive by the post office.
To explore whether MS patients experience difficulties in this “remembering to remember” type of memory, and how that is linked to cognitive performance, a team from the Kessler Foundation in New Jersey compared memory and functional performance between MS patients and a group of healthy people (controls).
Researchers evaluated 30 MS patients and 30 healthy controls, ages 28–65.
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