More MS news articles for July 2000

Multiple Sclerosis May Cause Impaired Mental Processing Speed

A DGReview of :"Verbal learning strategies in patients with multiple sclerosis" Cortex

By James Adams

Patients with multiple sclerosis face difficulties in verbal learning that may be the result of a decrease in information processing speed, research suggests.

Patients' ability to learn word lists was examined using the Buschke and Fuld procedure of selective reminding. Multiple sclerosis patients and healthy control subjects were asked to carry out the verbal learning task under two conditions: using a list of unrelated items and a list of items associated in pairs.

Results showed that multiple sclerosis patients display poor learning under both conditions compared with the control subjects.

Investigators used Markov chain analyses, which allows the separate measurement of encoding, automatic retrieval and intentional retrieval, to narrow down the nature of the functional deficit.

Encoding on the first trial and automatic retrieval on subsequent trials were found to be impaired in patients with multiple sclerosis. Intentional retrieval, however, appeared normal.

All of the abilities that were identified as impaired require a normal speed of information processing, and according to investigators, this means that the verbal learning deficit in multiple sclerosis patients might be traceable to a "slowing down of mental activity."