Clinical and imaging assessment of cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis

Maria A. Rocca, Maria P. Amato, Nicola De Stefano, Christian Enzinger, Jeroen J. Geurts, Iris K. Penner, Alex Rovira, James F. Sumowski, Paola Valsasina, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


In patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), grey matter damage is widespread and might underlie many of the clinical symptoms, especially cognitive impairment. This relation between grey matter damage and cognitive impairment has been lent support by findings from clinical and MRI studies. However, many aspects of cognitive impairment in patients with MS still need to be characterised. Standardised neuropsychological tests that are easy to administer and sensitive to disease-related abnormalities are needed to gain a better understanding of the factors affecting cognitive performance in patients with MS than exists at present. Imaging measures of the grey matter are necessary, but not sufficient to fully characterise cognitive decline in MS. Imaging measures of both lesioned and normal-appearing white matter lend support to the hypothesis of the existence of an underlying disconnection syndrome that causes clinical symptoms to trigger. Findings on cortical reorganisation support the contribution of brain plasticity and cognitive reserve in limiting cognitive deficits. The development of clinical and imaging biomarkers that can monitor disease development and treatment response is crucial to allow early identification of patients with MS who are at risk of cognitive impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-317
Number of pages16
JournalThe Lancet Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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