The effects of long-term interferon-beta-1b treatment on cognitive functioning in multiple sclerosis: a 16-year longitudinal study

Mult Scler. 2013 Nov;19(13):1765-72. doi: 10.1177/1352458513485981. Epub 2013 May 7.


Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease of the central nervous system that affects cognition. Short-term treatment with interferon-beta-1b (IFN-b-1b) has been shown to have beneficial effects on cognition.

Objective: The objective of this paper is to evaluate the effects of IFN-b-1b on cognitive functioning in patients with MS over the course of 16 years.

Methods: Sixteen subjects with relapsing-remitting MS participated in the study. Nine of these subjects received IFN-b-1b, while seven received placebo treatment in the pivotal MS trial. After five years, all subjects were switched to IFN-b-1b treatment. At two and four years into the study, all subjects underwent a brief neuropsychological test battery, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and neurologic ratings; measures were repeated at 16 years.

Results: Across the total cohort, cognitive functioning remained relatively stable over the course of 16 years. The placebo/IFN-b-b group exhibited increased visual memory performance relative to the IFN-b-1b treatment group, but had a greater decline in verbal memory. Initial MRI lesion load demonstrated a significant, negative correlation with overall cognitive performance at 16 years (p = 0.00).

Conclusion: We conclude that IFN-b-1b has beneficial effects on long-term cognition outcomes in MS.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; beta-interferon; cognition; visual memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Interferon beta-1b
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / psychology
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Stroop Test
  • Trail Making Test


  • Interferon beta-1b
  • Interferon-beta