Progressive cognitive decline in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may not be as inevitable as previously thought, a study suggests.
The study, “A longitudinal study of cognitive function in multiple sclerosis: is decline inevitable?,” was published in the Journal of Neurology.
Statistics indicate that some kind of cognitive impairment affects up to two-thirds of all MS patients, including memory deficits or problems with processing information. Once a patient starts showing signs of cognitive decline, it is often assumed symptoms will inevitably worsen as MS progresses.
However, findings from a new study carried out by researchers in Greece are challenging this scenario.
Investigators reviewed data from 59 patients — 14 with clinically isolated syndrome and 45 with relapsing-remitting MS — evaluating their cognitive decline over a decade. Cognitive impairment was assessed using the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological Tests, a standard tool for this purpose, at baseline (study’s start; 2004–08) and again approximately 10 years later (2015–17).
Analyses revealed roughly a 10% increase in measures of overall cognitive impairment over the course of 10 years in the MS group analyzed — from 42% at baseline to 52.5% at follow-up.
A more detailed analysis of five separate cognitive domains assessed in the test (verbal memory, visual/spatial memory, working memory, processing speed, and cognitive flexibility) suggested this rise was mainly driven by a decline in verbal memory.
Cognitive impairment at 10 years was not associated with the occurrence or number of relapses in the intervening time, nor with disability (as measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale) at any time point.
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