Investigating domain-specific cognitive impairment among patients with multiple sclerosis using touchscreen cognitive testing in routine clinical care

Jack Cotter*, Nethmi Vithanage, Shuna Colville, Dawn Lyle, Denise Cranley, Francesca Cormack, Jennifer H. Barnett, Katy Murray, Suvankar Pal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cognitive dysfunction is present in up to 70% of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and has been reported at all stages and in all subtypes of the disease. These deficits have been reported across a variety of cognitive domains, but are generally under-recognized and incompletely evaluated in routine clinical practice. The aim of this study was to investigate the spectrum of cognitive impairment in patients with MS presenting to a specialist MS clinic using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), administered on a touchscreen platform. Ninety MS patients completed computerized CANTAB tasks assessing working memory, executive function, processing speed, attention, and episodic memory. Scores were adjusted for age, sex, and level of education and classified as normal or impaired based on comparison with a large normative data pool. We also investigated the impact of clinical and demographic variables which could potentially influence cognitive performance including patient educational level (a proxy for cognitive reserve), disease status (duration, course, and severity of MS), and depression. CANTAB testing detected cognitive impairment in 40 patients (44% of the sample). The most frequently impaired domain was executive function, present in 55% of cognitively impaired individuals. Disease duration and severity were significantly associated with performance across various cognitive domains. Patients with depressive symptoms were also more likely to exhibit impaired processing speed. Results from this study confirm that cognitive impairment is common and occurs across a range of domains among MS patients attending routine clinical visits. CANTAB tasks provide a sensitive and practical approach to cognitive testing in MS patients as part of a holistic patient assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number331
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume9
Issue numberMAY
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2018

Keywords

  • neuropsychological assessment
  • Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery
  • Cognition
  • Computerized testing
  • Multiple sclerosis

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