Contribution of cortical and white matter lesions to cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2013 Sep;19(10):1290-6. doi: 10.1177/1352458513475490. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Background: Cortical lesions (CLs) have been reported to be a better predictor for cognitive impairment than white matter (WM) lesions in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

Objectives: The objectives of this article are to investigate the contribution of CLs and WM lesions to cognitive impairment in 91 patients with MS and clinically isolated syndrome, and to test potential associations of CLs and WM lesions with fatigue and depression.

Methods: Lesions were scored and segmented on 3D double inversion recovery sequences, according to their location (cortical, WM). Normalised grey matter volume was also determined. Cognitive performance was assessed with the SDMT and PASAT-3, fatigue with the FSMC and depression with the German version of the CES-D.

Results: CL volume did not correlate with fatigue or depression, but correlated significantly with both neuropsychological outcome measures: PASAT-3 (r = -0.275, p = 0.009) and SDMT (r = -0.377, p < 0.001). Multiple regression analyses with age, WM lesions, CLs and GM volume as independent variables, however, did not reveal CL volume as a significant predictor of neuropsychological outcomes, whereas WM lesion volume significantly predicted SDMT and by trend PASAT performance.

Conclusions: These findings suggest a role of WM lesions in the development of cognitive deficits, especially information-processing speed, which may be higher than previously assumed.

Abbreviations ces-d: Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (ADS-L: Allgemeine Depressions Skala-L, German version of CES-D), CIS: clinically isolated syndrome, CL: cortical lesion, DIR: double inversion recovery, EDSS: Expanded Disability Status Scale, FSMC: fatigue scale for motor and cognitive functions, GM: grey matter, MRI: magnetic resonance imaging, MS: multiple sclerosis, PASAT-3: paced auditory serial addition test 3s, PPMS: primary progressive multiple sclerosis, RRMS: relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, SDMT: symbol digit modalities test, SPM: statistical parametric mapping, SPMS: secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, WM: white matter.

Keywords: Cortical lesions; cognition; multiple sclerosis; white matter lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / complications
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests