New test to detect cognitive changes early in people with MS

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Posted 2 months ago by Nicole Pope

Australian researchers from Monash University have performed the first-ever study of a web-based cognitive test [Source: Shutterstock]
Australian researchers from Monash University have performed the first-ever study of a web-based cognitive test [Source: Shutterstock]

A simple, quick test could be the answer to the early detection of thinking and memory changes in people living with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Australian researchers from Monash University have performed the first-ever study of a web-based cognitive test, named MSReactor, thanks to a scholarship from MS Research Australia. 

Up to 65 percent of people with MS report difficulties with thinking and memory, with many cognitive tests unable to detect changes in cognition early in the disease and often causing anxiety for participants. 

MS Reactor was compared to a commonly used cognitive measurement tool, with researchers testing 450 people, mainly with relapsing-remitting MS, both in the clinic and home setting. 

Head of Research at MS Research Australia, Dr Julia Morahan, says the findings show that using MSReactor is an easier and participant-approved way to track changes to cognition and memory. 

“Changes to thinking and memory can have a significant impact on the lives of people with MS as it can affect their ability to remain in work and participate fully in their lives,” Dr Morahan says. 

“Earlier diagnosis of these changes provides the potential to intervene earlier and improve outcomes for people experiencing these issues.

“This web-based test can be used in the clinic, in the home, by people with MS themselves, no matter their location. 

“This means it is particularly accessible to people with lower mobility or who live in rural areas.”

Focusing on three cognitive functions, processing speed, visual attention and memory, the study involved a participant survey, multiple tests at the clinic every six months, with participants offered the opportunity to do home-based testing every one to three months. 

The researchers found that in some cases, a lower quality of life and depression were associated with slower reaction times. 

The study also found participants who were older or experienced higher disability had slower reaction times for all three cognitive functions. 

It was also noted that test scores improved as people became familiar with the test, the test became more reliable after two or three tests. 

Researchers will now include people who have Clinically Isolated Syndrome, a precursor to MS, in future studies. 

It is hoped that this test will provide further information on the declining cognitive ability, help with treatment options and provide better long-term outcomes for people with MS.

The study was published in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders.

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