Processing speed important to higher order cognitive function in multiple sclerosis patients

A recent article by Kessler Foundation researchers underscores the importance of processing speed in overall cognitive function in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their performance of everyday life activities. The article, "A pilot study examining speed of processing training (SPT) to improve processing speed in persons with multiple sclerosis", was published August 27, 2018 in Frontiers in Neurology.

The authors are Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD, Yael Goverover, PhD (visiting professor from NYU), Silvana L Costa, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, of Kessler Foundation.

The researchers tested Speed of Processing Training (SPT), in individuals with MS. SPT is a computerized treatment shown to result in persistent improvements in processing speed and everyday function in older adults. There were 21 participants in this randomized controlled trial, 12 in the treatment group and 9 in the control group. The treatment group underwent 10 computerized training sessions over 5 weeks; controls had no treatment. The treatment group showed significant gains on neuropsychological tests of processing speed, new learning and memory, and activities of daily life.

"These results indicate that processing speed is fundamental to higher order cognitive function in individuals with MS," said Dr. Chiaravalloti, the Foundation's director of Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, and Traumatic Brain Injury Research. "Looking at the impact of cognitive interventions on neuropsychological measures isn't enough, however. The outcomes of our research studies need to include the effects of cognitive rehabilitation protocols on how people perform in their daily lives."

"Developing a cognitive rehabilitation protocol for treating deficits in processing speed is a priority," summarized Dr. Chiaravalloti. "Reaching that goal means improving the lives of individuals and easing the burdens of caregivers. This study is an important first step toward that goal."

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