Cognitive dysfunction is common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Saccadic eye movement paradigms such as antisaccades (AS) can sensitively interrogate cognitive function, in particular, the executive and attentional processes of response selection and inhibition. Although we have previously demonstrated significant deficits in the generation of AS in MS patients, the neuropathological changes underlying these deficits were not elucidated. In this study, 24 patients with relapsing-remitting MS underwent testing using an AS paradigm. Rank correlation and multiple regression analyses were subsequently used to determine whether AS errors in these patients were associated with: (i) neurological and radiological abnormalities, as measured by standard clinical techniques, (ii) cognitive dysfunction, and (iii) regionally specific cerebral white and gray-matter damage. Although AS error rates in MS patients did not correlate with clinical disability (using the Expanded Disability Status Score), T2 lesion load or brain parenchymal fraction, AS error rate did correlate with performance on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, neuropsychological tests commonly used in MS. Further, voxel-wise regression analyses revealed associations between AS errors and reduced fractional anisotropy throughout most of the cerebellum, and increased mean diffusivity in the cerebellar vermis. Region-wise regression analyses confirmed that AS errors also correlated with gray-matter atrophy in the cerebellum right VI subregion. These results support the use of the AS paradigm as a marker for cognitive dysfunction in MS and implicate structural and microstructural changes to the cerebellum as a contributing mechanism for AS deficits in these patients.
Keywords: DTI; MRI; antisaccades; cerebellum; cognitive dysfunction; multiple sclerosis.
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