Social cognitive deficits in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are associated with higher levels of fatigue, depressive symptoms, and anxiety, new research conducted at the Kessler Foundation has found.
Even though the study included only a small group of participants, it represents a step toward better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of MS, and researchers believe the findings suggest that problems in social cognition may play a part in common MS symptoms.
The study, “Relationship between social cognition and fatigue, depressive symptoms, and anxiety in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Journal of Neuropsychology.
An increasing number of studies suggest that people with MS may experience impairments in social cognition, in addition to the well-known physical and cognitive deﬁcits that mark the disease.
In MS, two cornerstones of social interaction seem to be primarily affected: facial recognition, or the ability to understand emotions from facial expressions, and; Theory of Mind (ToM), which is the ability to understand other’s beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. But how such deficits relate to non-physical problems commonly experienced in MS, such as emotional changes and fatigue, is still poorly understood.
To address that, Kessler Foundation researchers explored the association of social cognition with fatigue, depressive symptoms, and anxiety in people with MS.
The study included 28 participants — 17 with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), three with primary progressive MS (PPMS), three with secondary progressive MS (SPMS), and two with progressive-relapsing MS. Among the patients 22 were women, and the study population had a mean age of 52 years.
Researchers screened patients for problems in social cognition using tests of facial recognition and Theory of Mind, and looked for associations with patient-reported fatigue, depression, and anxiety. They also measured non-social cognitive impairments, such as attention and processing speed.
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