Cognitive testing may help people predict the future progression of inactive or benign multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study. Gender and brain lesions may also determine progression of MS years after diagnosis.
By current definition, people with benign MS are those who remain “fully functional” after 15 or more years from disease onset. However, people with benign MS occasionally develop renewed disease activity or progression and can experience severe symptoms.
For the study, researchers examined the cognitive test results and brain scans of 63 people with benign MS during a period of five years. Forty-three were women and 20 were men.
The cognitive tests included verbal and visual memory, attention, concentration and the speed at which the participant processed information. Brain scans revealed the number of lesions associated with MS on the person’s brain. Participants received follow-up neurologic exams every six months.
The study found nearly 30 percent of people with benign MS significantly worsened over the five-year course of the study. People who failed more than two of the ten cognitive tests were 20 percent more likely to progress over time. Men with benign MS were nearly three times more likely than women to later experience signs of MS. People with more brain lesions detected on scans were also more likely to develop signs of the disease.
“Our findings strongly suggest that a person’s gender, cognitive state and amount of lesions on the brain are important factors for predicting MS progression,” study author Maria Pia Amato, MD, with the University of Florence in Italy was quoted as saying. “Our study highlights the importance of cognitively testing people with benign MS who appear to be healthy. This information might be important in tailoring the patient’s treatment.”
SOURCE: Neurology, July 29, 2009