[Cognitive impairment]

Rev Neurol (Paris). 2009 Mar:165 Suppl 4:S113-22. doi: 10.1016/S0035-3787(09)72122-8.
[Article in French]


Cognitive impairment is common in multiple sclerosis (MS), occurring at all stages of the disease, even at the earliest, and can be a major source of disability, social impairment, and impoverished quality of life. Cognitive dysfunction is mainly focused on working memory, conceptual reasoning, verbal fluency, speed of information processing, attention and executive function. Measures of information-processing speed appear to be the most robust and sensitive markers of cognitive impairment in MS patients. Cognitive testing in MS patients is complex and cognitive screening tests are time- and cost-saving test instruments. A comprehensive and sensitive cognitive test procedure should be administered to detect cognitive dysfunction, and recent studies demonstrate that single, predominantly speed-related cognitive tests may be superior to extensive and time-consuming test batteries in screening cognitive decline. Additional clinical factors, including disease course, fatigue, and affective disturbance, can impact the degree of MS-related cognitive impairment. Despite weak correlation with disease duration and physical disability status, the degree of cognitive impairment in MS has been related to the extent of topographically specific neuronal tissue damage and loss. Numerous studies have applied conventional and quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to correlate the profile and degree of cognitive impairment with various MRI-detectable abnormalities. The burden of MRI-visible lesions does not fully account for the degree of MS-related cognitive impairment. Nonconventional MRI findings suggest the extent of subtle tissue damage in normal-appearing white and grey matter to correlate best with the severity of cognitive impairment in MS patients. Structural MRI approaches have recently been extended by functional MRI studies scrutinizing the brain's ability for adaptive functional reorganization in the presence of widespread tissue damage. Cognitive impairment in MS seems to be not simply the result of tissue destruction, but also a balance between tissue destruction, tissue repair, and adaptive functional reorganization. These findings highlight the need to screen for cognitive deficits in MS patients to conduct potential cognitive rehabilitation intervention.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology