The progress of cognitive decline in newly diagnosed MS patients




Cognitive impairment occurs in multiple sclerosis already in the early stages of the disease. Less is known about the evolution of cognitive decline, especially in newly diagnosed MS patients. The results of existing studies are contradictory in that both cognitive preservation and progressive deterioration have been reported. The purpose of this study was to examine how cognitive impairment evolves over time in the early stages of MS.

Material and methods

At baseline, the participants were 36 newly diagnosed MS patients and 37 controls. A group of 30 patients were followed longitudinally at a mean test–retest interval of 6.1 years. The test battery covered attention, information processing, memory and learning, verbal and motor functions and reasoning.


There was a significant decline in divided attention (dual task) and information-processing speed (SDMT) at follow-up, but no significant deterioration in overall cognitive performance.


Overall cognitive functioning remained quite stable during the 6-year follow-up, whereas divided attention and processing speed deteriorated. However, deterioration in performance on the SDMT and the dual task does not seem to indicate more extensive cognitive deterioration. Given the impact of cognitive impairment on patients' quality of life, early detection of its occurrence in MS is extremely important.