Working memory and processing speed deficits in systemic lupus erythematosus as measured by the paced auditory serial addition test

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2004 Jan;10(1):35-45. doi: 10.1017/S1355617704101057.


As many as 66% of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have been reported to have cognitive deficits. These deficits are often associated with information processing speed and working memory. Similarly, processing speed and working memory impairments are the hallmark of cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis (MS). The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) places high demands on processing speed and working memory. Fisk and Archibald, however, demonstrated that the total score of the PASAT does not accurately reflect impairments in these cognitive processes. They found that MS patients used a chunking strategy to obtain correct responses and reduce the cognitive demands of the task. In the present study, PASAT performance was examined for 45 SLE patients and 27 controls using alternative scoring procedures. Although the total number of correct responses did not differ between SLE and controls at the 2.4 or 2.0 s presentation rates, SLE patients had fewer dyads (correct consecutive responses) than controls at the faster rate, and more chunking responses than controls at both rates. Disease activity, disease duration, depression, fatigue, and corticosteroids could not account for these differences. The findings suggest that SLE patients, like MS patients, chunk responses more often than controls, and that this scoring procedure may better reflect the working memory and processing speed deficits present in SLE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Neuropsychological Tests