Sensitivity of conventional memory tests in multiple sclerosis: comparing the Rao Brief Repeatable Neuropsychological Battery and the Minimal Assessment of Cognitive Function in MS

Mult Scler. 2009 Sep;15(9):1077-84. doi: 10.1177/1352458509106615. Epub 2009 Jun 25.


Background: Cognitive impairment is common in multiple sclerosis (MS) affecting roughly 45-60% of patients. Because memory deficits have significant impact on employment, caregiver burden, and social functioning, neuropsychological (NP) assessment is often recommended. Two widely used and validated NP batteries for MS are the Rao Brief Repeatable Neuropsychological Battery (BRNB) and the Minimal Assessment of Cognitive Function in MS (MACFIMS). Although similar, these batteries differ in the specific auditory/verbal and visual/spatial memory tests employed. The relative sensitivity of these memory tests is unknown.

Methods: The BRNB and MACFIMS have considerable overlap but different memory tests: the former includes the Selective Reminding Test (SRT) and the 10/36 Spatial Recall Test (10/36) and the latter the California Verbal Learning Test, Second Edition (CVLT2) and Brief Visuospatial Memory Test, Revised (BVMTR). In 65 patients with MS and 46 demographically matched controls, we compared the sensitivity of these tests, and secondarily their respective batteries.

Results: The BRNB and MACFIMS were comparable in their overall sensitivity to disease status. Although the BVMTR showed greater discriminative validity than the 10/36, the CVLT2 and SRT were comparable in sensitivity. The SDMT was the most sensitive NP test across both batteries.

Conclusions: We conclude that the BRNB and MACFIMS have comparable sensitivity among patients with MS. The sensitivity of the auditory/verbal memory tests from these batteries is similar, but the BVMTR appears to be more sensitive than the 10/36. Clinical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / complications*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity