Manual dexterity linked to cognitive decline in MS

A new study has found that poor manual dexterity could be an early indicator of cognitive decline in multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers studied 63 people with relapsing remitting MS between the ages of 26 and 55. They took two tests to evaluate their hand coordination and cognition – the 9-hole peg test used to measure manual dexterity by timing how fast people can place and remove pegs in holes with both of their hands, plus NeuroTrax, which is a cognitive assessment tool used to measure different cognitive abilities such as processing speed, memory, motor skills, verbal function and attention.

The 9-hole peg test scores correlated with several cognitive subsets. Manual dexterity in the dominant hand was a predictor of overall cognitive functioning, explaining 17% of the variance in cognitive scores.

The researchers say this study highlights a need for more work to discover how simultaneous motor and cognitive tasks affect those with MS. Doctors could potentially use manual dexterity assessments to identify possible cognitive issues early and intervene to improve quality of life.