Cognitive impairment worsens during relapse

A new study has found that people who experience a relapse from multiple sclerosis (MS) tend to see a decline in cognitive test scores, and sometimes don’t experience a full recovery.

A team of scientists from the University of Buffalo looked at 50 patients diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). They were aged between 18 and 65 years and had an expanded disability status scale (EDSS) score of less than seven.

Patients also had to have experienced a decline in symbol digit modalities test (SDMT) of at least three points to show cognitive decline.

Each participant was evaluated at baseline, at point of relapse, and during a three-month follow-up.

Patients were evaluated on changes in cognitive processing speed, as measured by the SDMT, plus measures of memory, ambulation, and manual dexterity. The investigators sought to identify any correlations between these changes and EDSS scores, magnetic resistance imaging (MRI), and cognitive reserve.

At time of relapse, patients saw an SDMT decline from 55.2 to 44.6, recovering to 51.7 at the three-month post-relapse point, all of which were significantly different compared with the stable controls.

People also experienced a slowing in the timed 25-foot walk test.

The researchers say these findings contribute to a growing body of evidence about the long-term impact of relapses.