Cognitive impairment is common in patients with multiple sclerosis, even in the early stages of the disease. The Brief International Cognitive Assessment for multiple sclerosis (BICAMS) is a short screening tool developed to assess cognitive function in everyday clinical practice.
To investigate associations between volumetric brain measures derived from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination and performance on BICAMS subtests in early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS).
BICAMS was used to assess cognitive function in 49 MS patients at baseline and after one and two years. The patients were separated into two groups (with or without cognitive impairment) based on their performances on BICAMSs subtests. MRI data were analysed by a software tool (MSMetrix), yielding normalized measures of global brain volumes and lesion volumes. Associations between cognitive tests and brain MRI measures were analysed by running correlation analyses, and differences between subgroups and changes over time with independent and paired samples tests, respectively.
The strongest baseline correlations were found between the BICAMS subtests and normalized whole brain volume (NBV) and grey matter volume (NGV); processing speed r = 0.54/r = 0.48, verbal memory r = 0.49/ r = 0.42, visual memory r = 0.48 /r = 0.39. Only the verbal memory test had significant correlations with T2 and T1 lesion volumes (LV) at both time points; T2LV r = 0.39, T1LV r = 0.38. There were significant loss of grey matter and white matter volume overall (NGV p<0.001, NWV p = 0.003), as well as an increase in T1LV (p = 0.013). The longitudinally defined confirmed cognitively impaired (CCI) and preserved (CCP) patients showed significant group differences on all MRI volume measures at both time points, except for NWV. Only the CCI subgroup showed significant white matter atrophy (p = 0.006) and increase in T2LV (p = 0.029).
The present study found strong correlations between whole brain and grey matter volumes and performance on the BICAMS subtests as well as significant changes in global volumes from baseline to follow-up with clear differences between patients defined as cognitively impaired and preserved at both baseline and follow-up.

Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier B.V.