“Cognitive impairment (CI) occurs in 30% to 70% of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and has a profound in uence on personal functioning, social interaction, employment, and overall quality of life,” Wan-Yu Hsu, PhD, explains. “ e ability to e ectively detect CI is essential to better manage further decline and help patients navigate problems related to their daily living.” Clinical cognitive assessment, she adds, currently relies on in-clinic comprehensive neuropsychological examinations. Traveling to clinics, however, may be burdensome for some patients, due to de – cits in mobility or cognition. “As a result, some patients may have limited access to cognitive assessments,” Riley Bove, MD, says. “ e application of digital cognitive assessments provides exibility, as the testing can be performed in di erent settings, including patients’ homes, which substantially improves access for patients who may face scheduling, geographic, or economic barriers in accessing standard forms of cognitive assessment.”
Significant Performance Differences Observed
For a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Drs. Hsu and Bove and colleagues sought to determine the feasibility and potential assessment sensitivity of EVO Monitor —an unsupervised, adaptive, digital tablet game —to assess cognition in patients with MS. A cohort of 100 people with MS (33 with CI and 67 without) and 24 adults without MS were tested with EVO Monitor and standard measures, including the written version of Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) and Timed 25-Foot Walk test (T25FW). While the EVO Monitor assessment is self-guided, a study coordinator sat in with participants to ensure they were following instructions.
When using the EVO Monitor, participants are instructed to respond to colored target stimuli by tapping an iPad screen while navigating a character along a dynamically moving road and avoiding walls and obstacles by tilting the iPad.
“Patients with both MS and CI performed worse on EVO Monitor than participants without MS and worse than patients with MS without CI,” says Dr. Hsu. “Associations between performance on EVO Monitor and standard cognitive measures were also observed. ese ndings suggest that EVO Monitor is a potential approach to measuring cognitive performance in patients with MS.”
Cognition in MS Linked With Physical Fitness & Balance
Previous studies have shown that cognition in MS is associated with physical tness and balance, Dr. Bove notes. “We performed exploratory analyses to examine the association between performance on EVO Monitor and on T25FW,” she says. “We observed that a faster walking speed was associated with a better EVO Monitor performance. e association between EVO Monitor performance and the T25FW may be explained by cerebral injury causing impairment in both domains in MS (Table).”
Drs. Hsu and Bove recommend that, as new evidence is generated in the eld of digital health and cognition, neurologists consider incorporating the use of digital tools for cognitive assessment in MS. “Our ndings suggest that EVO Monitor could be a clinically valuable approach to capturing CI in MS,” Dr. Hsu says. “Digital cognitive assessments provide exibility, as the testing can be performed in di erent settings, including in the home and where access to trained examiners is limited or costly. In addition, digital cognitive assessments can help patients e ectively detect CI and allow repeated assessments to provide a more precise monitoring of longitudinal changes in cognitive performance.”
Drs. Hsu and Bove express a need for further studies evaluating the use of EVO Monitor in everyday situations across di erent contexts and investigating whether results would be di erent due to uctuations in cognitive ability during the day. “For example, a key factor in cognitive assessment is patient fatigue,” Dr. Bove explains. “Controlling for impacts of perceived fatigue and fatigability on cognitive assessments measured by digital tools would be helpful. ere is also a need for studies with multiple data points to determine the reproducibility of the observed results to conclude the test-retest reliability of EVO Monitor.”