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Kessler researchers investigate social cognition, mood and fatigue in multiple sclerosis

August 29, 2019

East Hanover, NJ. August 29, 2019. A recent study by Kessler Foundation researchers linked the deficits in social cognition in multiple sclerosis with symptoms in other domains. The article, "Relationship between social cognition and fatigue, depressive symptoms, and anxiety in multiple sclerosis," was epublished on June 1, 2019 by the Journal of Neuropsychology.

The authors are Helen Genova, PhD, Katie Lancaster, PhD, Jean Lengenfelder, PhD, Christopher Bober, John DeLuca, PhD, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, of Kessler Foundation. Link to abstract: https://doi.org/10.1111/jnp.12185

Researchers tested 28 individuals with multiple sclerosis for impairments of social cognition using tests of facial affect recognition and Theory of Mind, and looked for associations between deficits of social cognition with common conditions in this population by screening for fatigue, depression and anxiety. They also measured non-social cognitive ability, i.e., attention and processing speed, using the Symbol Digit Modality Test.

Preliminary findings showed consistent associations between poorer performance on measures of social cognition and increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, most notably psychosocial fatigue. Cognitive ability was not a factor in these associations.

The study raises issues of causality and reciprocal effects, according to Dr. Genova, the Foundation's assistant director of the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research. "The nature of the relationships among these variables remains unclear," said Dr. Genova. "We cannot say whether deficits of social cognition worsen mood condition and fatigue, or vice versa," she explained. "The relationships may be reciprocal in nature," she observed. "Poor social cognition may worsen fatigue, depression and anxiety, leading to greater social isolation. That, in turn, may worsen social cognitive function."

The researchers emphasized the preliminary nature of their findings and recommended further research into the relationships among these factors in individuals with MS, as well in other populations with non-neurologic conditions, and healthy controls. "All of these conditions adversely affect quality of life," concluded Dr. Genova. "To alleviate their impact, we need to understand the interplay of social cognition, mood, and fatigue. Our study is an initial step toward understanding these dynamics in the population with MS.'
-end-
Funding sources. This research was supported by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. Dr. Lancaster is the Hearst Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation.

About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, National MS Society, Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, the Patterson Trust, Biogen Idec, Hearst Foundations, the International Progressive MS Alliance, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP for Research & Training, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of the Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS and developed new treatments. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, emotional processing, employment, cognitive fatigue, and in the interaction of cognitive and physical deficits. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, mobile imaging technologies, eye-tracking, and virtual reality. Neuroimaging studies are conducted at the research-dedicated Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. Kessler researchers and clinicians have faculty appointments in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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For more information, or to interview an expert, contact:

Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org.

Rob Gerth, 973.323.3675; RGerth@KesslerFoundation.org

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