The purpose of this study was to evaluate information processing characteristics in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). We selected 53 patients with MS and 58 matched healthy controls. Using computerized tests, we investigated focused, divided, sustained attention, and executive function, and attempted to pinpoint deficits in attentional control to peripheral or central processing stages. The results substantiate the hypothesis that the slowing of attention-demanding (controlled) information processing underlying more complex cognitive skills is general, i.e. irrespective of type of controlled processing, with MS patients being 40% slower than controls. MS patients may suffer from focused, and divided and sustained attention deficits, as well as from compromised central processing stages, with secondary progressive (SP) patients showing the most extensive range of deficits, closely followed by primary progressive (PP) patients, while relapsing-remitting (RR) patients appear to be much less affected. General slowing appears to be highest in PP and SP type MS patients (50% slower) versus relapsing-remitting MS (24% slower). In contrast to most previous results, (complex) processing speed appeared to be robustly correlated with severity of MS as measured by the expanded disability status scale and with disease duration. Patients did much less differ in accuracy of processing from controls, suggesting the importance of using time strategies in planning everyday life and job activities to compensate for or alleviate MS-related speed handicaps.
- Executive function
- General slowing
- Neuropsychological assessment