Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2022 Nov 12;69:104411. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2022.104411. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Cognitive dysfunction is relatively common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Although it occurs in all stages and all phenotypes of MS, it is more prevalent in secondary progressive MS (SPMS) compared to relapsing MS (RMS). It is unclear whether the higher frequency of cognitive impairment in SPMS is linked to the progressive phenotype or other clinical factors. In this study, we compared working memory in patients with RMS, SPMS, and healthy subjects. We also investigated the effects of age, disease duration, and disability on working memory performance.
METHODS: This case-control study enrolled 134 MS patients, 69 patients were diagnosed with RMS and 65 patients with SPMS, and 77 healthy control subjects. We designed two working memory tasks with different sets of stimuli (face vs. checkerboard) and different instructions (same or different vs. which one is the same).
RESULTS: Accuracy was significantly more impaired in SPMS patients than in RMS patients and both groups were worse than healthy subjects. This finding was similar between both tasks. Age and overall cognitive functions (measured with MoCA) also affected accuracy, but disease duration and disability only affected accuracy in working memory task with checkerboard stimuli.
CONCLUSION: MS patients are impaired in keeping the information in the visual working memory for a few seconds. Progressive phenotype significantly affected working memory accuracy, and this effect did not explain out with other demographic or clinical factors. Future studies are needed to reveal underlying mechanisms of working memory dysfunction in SPMS and working memory dysfunction as a biomarker of disease progression.