Background: Depression symptoms are prevalent in multiple sclerosis (MS) and associated with poorer cognition in cross-sectional studies; it is unknown whether changes in depression symptoms track with cognitive changes longitudinally. Objective: Investigate whether changes in depression symptoms correspond with cognitive changes over time in MS, and identify specific cognitive functions related to depression symptoms. Method: Persons with early relapse-onset MS (n = 165) completed a depression questionnaire (Beck Depression Inventory FastScreen) and tests of cognitive speed, executive control, and memory at baseline and 3-year follow-up. One-way ANOVAs assessed differences in cognitive change across participants with worsened, stable, or improved depression symptoms from baseline to year 3. Results: Change in depression symptoms was related to change in executive control (p = 0.001, ηp2 = 0.08; worsened mood with worsened executive control; improved mood with improved executive control), even when adjusting for cognitive speed (p = 0.002, ηp2 = 0.08). There were no links to cognitive speed (p = 0.826) or memory (p = 0.243). Regarding individual depression symptoms, executive control was related to loss of pleasure and suicidal thoughts. Conclusions: Executive control tracks with depression symptoms, raising hope that management of mood may improve executive control. The specific link between executive control and anhedonia implicates dysfunctional reward processing as a key component of MS depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1632-1645
Number of pages14
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Depression
  • cognition
  • cohort study
  • executive function
  • multiple sclerosis


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