Education Level Predicts Memory Loss in Progressive MS

By Annette M. Boyle, Contributor
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Previous research has demonstrated that patients with progressive subtypes of multiple sclerosis (MS) experience a wider range of cognitive impairments including deficits in informational processing speed, attention, working memory, executive function and verbal episodic memory than those with remitting relapsing disease. A new study has discovered a relationship between cognitive reserves (CR) and brain reserves (BR) in memory preservation in progressive MS.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and several leading Italian medical schools found that CR independently protects against cognitive impairment in patients with progressive MS. They will present the results of their study on October 27 at the 2017 European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) annual meeting in Paris (poster 903).

Cognitive degeneration. (Source: Pixabay)

In the study, investigators conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to disease burden (T2 lesion volume) and to estimate brain reserve based on intracranial volume in 49 patients with primary progressive MS (PPMS) and 37 with secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Years of education were used as a proxy for cognitive reserves.

Patients performed tests to assess their cognitive efficiency and memory. The researchers used hierarchical regressions to evaluate whether higher brain reserves or greater cognitive reserves independently accounted for positive variation in cognitive impairment in patients with similar levels of disease burden.

The researchers found that more years of education and greater intracranial volume both appeared to protect patients from disease-related loss of cognitive efficiency. More years of education alone predicted greater preservation of memory among individuals with similar levels of disease burden. They concluded that lifestyle choices that include continued focus on learning protect against cognitive impairment independently of genetic factors.

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