Stellmann JP, Wanke N, Maarouf A, Gellißen S, Heesen C, Audoin B, Gold SM, Zaaraoui W, Poettgen J.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients often suffer from significant cognitive impairment. Earlier research has shown relationships between regional cortical atrophy and cognitive deterioration. However, due to a large number of neuropsychological assessments and a heterogenous pattern of cognitive deficits in MS patients, reported associations patterns are also heterogenous. Using an extensive neuropsychological battery of 23 different tasks, we explored domain (attention/information processing, memory, spatial processing, executive functioning) and task-specific associations with regional cortical thickness in a representative sample of MS patients (N = 97). Cortical regions associated with multiple cognitive tasks in the left hemisphere were predominantly located in the inferior insula (attention p < 0.001, memory p = 0.047, spatial processing p = 0.004, executive functioning p = 0.037), the gyrus frontalis superior (attention p = 0.015, memory p = 0.037, spatial processing p = 0.033, executive functioning p = 0.017) and temporal medial (attention p < 0.001, memory two clusters p = 0.016 and p < 0.001, executive functioning p = 0.016). In the right hemisphere, we detected the strongest association in the sulcus interparietalis with five cluster (attention SDMT p = 0.003 and TAP_DA p < 0.001; memory Rey recall p = 0.013 and VLMT verbal learning p = 0.016; spatial processing Rey copy p < 0.001). We replicated parts of our results in an independent sample of 30 mildly disabled MS patients. Moreover, comparisons to 29 healthy controls showed that the regional associations seemed to represent rather pathophysiological dependency than a physiological one. We believe that our results may prove useful in diagnosis and rehabilitation of cognitive impairments and may serve as guidance in future magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies.

Neuroimage Clin. 2021 Feb 24; 30:102606

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