About Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

Home > Learn About Multiple Sclerosis > News > Study finds processing speed, cognitive deficit link

Study finds processing speed, cognitive deficit link


Kessler Foundation researchers found that slow processing speed explains executive deficits in multiple sclerosis patients.

Researchers examined two key variables: executive function and processing speed. The brain's frontal lobe coordinates the mental skills that make up executive function. Examples include (but are not limited to) the ability to manage time and attention, switch focus, plan and organize, and remember details. Processing speed is the ability to quickly and efficiently respond to basic stimuli and is often defined as speed of completion of a task with reasonable accuracy.

The study measured executive functioning tasks in 50 MS patients, comparing them to 28 healthy individuals. Researchers found that on speeded tasks of executive function, MS patients performed worse than healthy individuals. When the scientists controlled for speed, performance deficits disappeared. They also found no link between atrophy and performance when speed was controlled for.

“Our results point to slowed processing speed as the mechanism underlying deficits in executive function,” said Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, a co-author of the Kessler Foundation study. “Understanding this association is an important step toward the development of effective cognitive rehabilitation strategies for individuals with MS.  We should focus our efforts on two key domains – processing speed and memory.”

The study was published online in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology.

  Support the MSF
Supporting MSF's programs to help make "a brighter tomorrow" has never been easier.
make a donation 

  Learn About MS
Common symptoms of MS include fatigue, weakness, spasticity, balance problems, bladder and bowel problems, numbness, vision loss, tremors and depression.
learn more 


Unless otherwise specified, all medical content is compiled by MSF staff and reviewed for accuracy by a member of our Medical Advisory Board.

The MSF strives to present clear and unbiased information. This site is partially funded through a grant from Bayer Healthcare, LLC.

© Copyright 2000-2013 Multiple Sclerosis Foundation - All Rights Reserved