Cognitive Testing and Gender Help Determine MS Progress

Brain ScanPeople having benign or inactive multiple sclerosis may find it hard to determine how such a condition may progress in the future. There were no means for doctors to know just how and when benign MS might develop in people. But recent studies have shown that cognitive testing as well as brain scans might be able to help doctors predict how the future of people with benign or inactive MS will fare out.

Benign multiple sclerosis refers to people who suffer from the condition but has since remained fully functional 15 or more years after  the onset of the said disease. But despite the relative inactivity, there are cases where some people with benign MS may experience disease progression and may start showing some symptoms associated with the condition.

The researchers from the University of Florence in Italy looked at cognitive test results and brain scans from 63 people with benign MS stretching a period of five years. The participants were composed of 43 women and 20 men. The cognitive tests included those evaluating visual and verbal memory, attention, concentration and information process rate. The brain scans revealed a number of lesions on the participant’s brain associated with MS. Follow up neurological exams were given every six months.

The study showed that 30 percent of the participants with benign MS significantly worsened over the course of five years. Those who failed on more than two of the cognitive tests out of the 10 given were 20 percent more likely to progress over time. Gender may also play a part on the progress of benign MS, according to the study. Male participants in the said study were three times more likely to experience later signs of MS than women. The participants that showed more brain lesions on the brain scans were also more likely to develop symptoms associated with the disease.

Source: American Academy of Neurology. "Cognitive Testing, Gender And Brain Lesions May Predict Multiple Sclerosis Disease Progression Risk." ScienceDaily 29 July 2009. 4 August 2009