Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Higher education may be protective against multiple sclerosis-associated cognitive deficits

Date:
July 2, 2013
Source:
IOS Press BV
Summary:
Multiple sclerosis (MS) can lead to severe cognitive impairment as the disease progresses. Researchers in Italy have found that patients with high educational levels show less impairment on a neuropsychological evaluation compared with those with low educational levels.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can lead to severe cognitive impairment as the disease progresses. Researchers in Italy have found that patients with high educational levels show less impairment on a neuropsychological evaluation compared with those with low educational levels.

Their results are published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

MS is a progressive immunologic brain disorder with neuropsychological deficits including selective attention, working memory, executive functioning, information processing speed, and long term memory. These deficits often impact daily life (ability to do household tasks, interpersonal relationships, employment, and overall quality of life).

In this study, investigators first assessed the role of cognitive reserve, the brain's active attempt to focus on how tasks are processed, in compensating for the challenge represented by brain damage. Earlier studies had reported that higher cognitive reserve protects MS subjects from disease-related cognitive inefficiency but in these studies cognitive reserve was mainly estimated through a vocabulary test. Here, investigators considered educational level and occupational attainment instead of vocabulary. They also evaluated both educational and occupational experience, hypothesizing that an individual's lifetime occupational attainment could also be considered a good proxy of CR, similar to the way in which higher occupational attainment reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The second aim of the study was to investigate the possible role of perceived fatigue. Fatigue can have a great negative influence on daily life, so that higher perceived fatigue might result in lower cognitive performance.

Fifty consecutive clinically diagnosed MS patients took part in the study. A control group included 157 clinically healthy subjects, with no psychiatric or neurological diagnosis. Individuals in both groups were, on average, of the same age, education level and gender. The mean age was 40.41 (± 9.67) years, with 12.37 (± 4.42) years of education.

Cognitive performance was evaluated using the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), in which a series of single digit numbers are presented and the two most recent digits must be summed. This test has high sensitivity in detecting MS-related cognitive deficits as it relies strongly on working memory and information processing speed abilities. Fatigue was evaluated through the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS), which assesses the effects of fatigue in terms of physical, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning.

Of the 50 clinically diagnosed patients, 17 had less than 13 years of schooling, without obtaining any secondary level diploma, and 33 had received more than 13 years of schooling, leading to a diploma at university level. Both groups were administered a short neuropsychological battery including standardized tests for vigilance, alertness and divided attention. None of the tasks showed differences between the groups.

Patients were also classified using the US census categories into low occupations (student, housewife, unskilled/semiskilled, skilled trade or craft, clerical/office worker) and high occupations (manager business/government and professional/technical), where the occupational attainment categories are based on the cognitive complexity and cognitive effort needed to carry out the job efficiently. They were then further divided into three groups: low occupation and low education, low occupation and high education, and high occupation and high education.

The researchers found that high speed PASAT versions were more suitable for identifying compensatory capacities compared to low speed PASAT versions. MS patients with low education performed worse than matched healthy controls at faster PASAT speeds. By contrast, no difference was observed between MS patients with high education and matched healthy controls, regardless of PASAT speed. On the other hand, neither occupational attainment nor fatigue had any impact on cognitive deficits in MS.

"These results indicate that low education is a risk factor for cognitive impairment in people with neurological disease such as MS, whereas a high educational level could be considered a protective factor from disease-associated cognitive impairment," observes lead investigator Elisabetta Lΰdavas, PhD, Director of the Center for Studies and Research in Cognitive Neuroscience, Cesena and Professor of Neuropsychology at the Department of Psychology of the University of Bologna, Italy. She concludes that "The protective effects of education on the cognitive profile of MS patients should be considered in longitudinal studies of cognitive functions, and in therapeutic attempts to improve cognition in these patients."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by IOS Press BV. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Scarpazza, D. Braghittoni, B. Casale, S. Malagϊ, F. Mattioli, G. di Pellegrino and E. Ladavas. Education protects against cognitive changes associated with multiple sclerosis. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.3233/RNN-120261

Cite This Page:

IOS Press BV. "Higher education may be protective against multiple sclerosis-associated cognitive deficits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702173044.htm>.
IOS Press BV. (2013, July 2). Higher education may be protective against multiple sclerosis-associated cognitive deficits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702173044.htm
IOS Press BV. "Higher education may be protective against multiple sclerosis-associated cognitive deficits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130702173044.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins