The following is a summary of the “Working memory dysfunction differs between secondary progressive and relapsing multiple sclerosis: Effects of clinical phenotype, age, disease duration, and disability,” published in the January 2023 issue of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders by Pourmohammadi, et al.

Patients with multiple sclerosis often experience cognitive difficulties (MS). Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) is more prevalent than relapsing MS (RMS) but occurs in all MS phases and phenotypes. While cognitive impairment is more common in SPMS, whether this is due to the disease’s progressive nature or some other clinical cause is unknown. Working memory was examined between people with RMS, SPMS, and healthy controls in this study. We also looked into how age, disease severity, and impairment impacted people’s capacity to use working memory.

A total of 134 people with MS (69 with RMS and 65 with SPMS) and 77 healthy volunteers participated in this case-control research. Different sets of stimuli (faces vs. checkerboards) and procedures were used to create two distinct working memory tests (same or different vs. which one is the same). SPMS and RMS patients performed worse on accuracy tests than healthy controls, while SPMS patients performed far worse. This discovery holds for both of the aforementioned endeavors. 

Accuracy was only reduced by disease duration and handicap when performing the working memory task with checkerboard stimuli. However, age and general cognitive capabilities (measured with MoCA) had an effect across the board. Patients with MS have trouble keeping things in their short-term visual memory. Progressive phenotype considerably impacted the accuracy of working memory, and other demographic or clinical characteristics could not account for this effect. Working memory dysfunction as a biomarker of illness progression and the underlying mechanisms that cause it in SPMS need further investigation.