Conceptual reasoning deficits are common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and are typically associated with focal lesions involving the frontal lobes. In this study, we predicted that MS patients with frontal white matter lesions (MS-F) would be more impaired on a standard conceptual reasoning task (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; WCST) than patients with minimal frontal lesions (MS-NF), even if the total cerebral lesion area (TLA), measured from MRI, was equivalent across groups. We subdivided 43 definite MS patients into three groups based on MRI findings: seven in the MS-F group (mean TLA = 41.4 cm2) and seven in the MS-NF group (mean TLA = 50.0 cm2); 29 MS patients served as a low lesion burden control group (MS-C; mean TLA = 6.4 cm2). The groups did not differ with regard to demographic and illness characteristics. Although the three subgroups obtained comparable scores on a measure of global cognitive functioning (verbal intelligence), the MS-F group achieved significantly fewer categories and made more total errors on the WCST than did the MS-NF and MS-C groups. The MS-F group made significantly more perseverative responses than the MS-C group and nonsignificantly more than the MS-NF group. These results suggest that the pattern of cognitive decline in MS is a function of the location of demyelinating lesions within the cerebral hemispheric white matter. Finally, we supplement the group study results with a case report of an MS patient who was studied serially with MRI and cognitive testing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology