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Cognitive Dysfunction


In this article


  • Slowed processing speed
  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired attention/concentration
  • Impaired executive functions
  • Impaired spatial relations
  • Impaired word-finding ability

Note: Cognitive deficits are often missed in a standard neurologic exam. Read the National MS Society's Recommendations for Cognitive Screening and Management in MS Care.



  • Cognitive rehabilitation (S/LP, OT, or neuropsychologists)
  • Restorative approach: direct retraining exercises (have only limited benefit for daily activities)
  • Compensatory approach: aims to improve function via substitution of compensatory strategies/tools for the impaired function
  • Aerobic exercise to enhance cognitive function


  • Disease-modifying agents may slow onset/progression; no other medications have been shown in controlled trials to improve cognition in people

Psychosocial Implications

  • Individual: denial; anxiety; loss of self-esteem/self-confidence; depression; may interfere with self-care and independence
  • Interpersonal: family strain; marital strain; impaired communication; role shifts within the family
  • Employment: major cause of high unemployment rate and lower quality of life measures in people with MS
  • Healthcare: may affect communication with providers, coordination of care, and adherence to treatment

Resources for clinicians

Resources for patients


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