A multiple sclerosis (MS)-specific computerized cognitive rehabilitation (CR) program led to significant improvements in mental skills among MS patients participating in a recent pilot study.
These findings suggest that those with MS, and likely other disorders, might gain the greatest benefits from tailored cognitive tests that are specifically adapted to the features of their medical condition, according to the researchers.
The study, “Enhancing cognitive rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis with a disease-specific tool,” was published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.
Nerve damage in MS — which leads to muscle spasms, walking difficulties, and other hallmark features of the neurodegenerative disorder — also tends to cause cognitive problems. These occur frequently, with estimates indicating that such cognitive difficulties might affect 40–70% of MS patients.
Cognitive impairment affects attention, memory, and executive function, which is a set of mental skills that include the ability to exercise self-control, and to plan and make decisions. People living with such impairments can experience difficulty learning new things and may even lose some visual-spatial skills.
Although computerized tools exist to provide cognitive rehabilitation, research on their effectiveness has yielded conflicting results.
Researchers from the University of Bologna, in Italy, and their colleagues hypothesized that this was due to the non-specific nature of available tools. Such tools, they argued, are broadly targeted at cognitive disability in general, whereas cognitive impairment in a given disorder, such as MS, has specific features that must be addressed.
To put these concepts into practice, the investigators developed a computerized tool, called MS-rehab, that focuses on the cognitive features that are most relevant to people with MS.
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