Cognitive deficits are common in multiple sclerosis (MS), documented at many stages of the disease. Both structural and functional neuroimaging have demonstrated a relationship with cognitive abilities in MS. Significant neuroplasticity of cognitive functions in individuals with MS is evident. Homologous region adaptation, local activation expansion, and extra-region recruitment all occur in an effort to maintain cognitive functioning. While much of this neuroplasticity is adaptive, it may also be maladaptive, particularly in individuals that are demonstrating significant cognitive impairment and/or with disease progression. This maladaptive neuroplasticity may come at the cost of other cognitive functions. Studies of cognitive rehabilitation efficacy have also recently applied neuroimaging techniques to establish outcome. Researchers have successfully applied various neuroimaging techniques to study the effects of cognitive rehabilitation in MS including task-based fMRI and resting state functional connectivity across multiple realms of cognition including episodic memory, executive functioning, attention, and processing speed. These studies have demonstrated neuroplasticity in the brains of persons with MS through the documentation of changes at the level of the cerebral substrate from before to after non-invasive, non-pharmacological, behavioral treatment for deficits in cognition. Future research should seek to identify adaptive versus maladaptive neuroplasticity associated with specific cognitive rehabilitation programs within all MS phenotypes to foster the validation of the most effective cognitive rehabilitation interventions for persons with MS.
Keywords: cognition; cognitive rehabilitation; cognitive remediation; fMRI; multiple sclerosis; neuroimaging.