Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis: A Review of Neuropsychological Assessments

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Of the more than two million people worldwide with multiple sclerosis, 40% to 65% experience cognitive impairment, many of them early in the course of the disease. Cognitive impairment has been found in patients with all subtypes of multiple sclerosis. Because both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions may improve patients’ brain function, cognitive assessment should be a routine part of the clinical evaluation. Traditional paper-and-pencil neuropsychological tests and batteries can help detect and monitor patients’ cognitive problems. Computerized cognitive batteries also show promise. Controversy continues over which test is most reliable at assessing cognitive impairment in both everyday clinical practice and research. Each battery has possible disadvantages, such as practice effects, poor sensitivity and specificity, and questionable applicability to multiple sclerosis. Based on our review of the literature, we describe the tests that are currently being used or that might be used in assessing cognitive deficits in patients with multiple sclerosis, and we summarize the strengths and limitations of each.

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