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Cognitive speed and accuracy dysfunction in pediatric MS using a computerized neurocognitive battery

Full Title: Examining cognitive speed and accuracy dysfunction in youth and young adults with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis using a computerized neurocognitive battery

​Barlow-Krelina E, Fabri TL, O’Mahony J, Gur RC, Gur RE, De Somma E, Bolongaita L, Yeh EH, Marrie RA, Bar-Or A, Banwell BL, Till C on behalf of the Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Network




We evaluated performance on the Penn Computerized Neurocognitive Battery (PCNB), a tool assessing accuracy and response time across four cognitive domains, alongside the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), a measure of processing speed commonly used in MS. We determined whether performance decrements are more likely to be detected on measures of accuracy versus response time in pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (POMS).


Performance on the SDMT, accuracy on PCNB tests belonging to four domains (executive function, episodic memory, complex cognition, social cognition), and response time on the PCNB were compared for 65 POMS patients (age range: 8–29 years) and 76 healthy controls (HCs) by ANCOVA. Associations between the Overall PCNB score and SDMT were examined for both groups, and their agreement in classifying impairment was assessed using Cohen’s kappa.


POMS patients (age at testing = 18.3 ± 4.0 years; age at POMS onset = 14.9 ± 2.3 years) demonstrated reduced accuracy relative to HCs on tests of working memory, attention/inhibition, verbal memory, and visuospatial processing, after adjusting for response time (p ≤ .002). Patients demonstrated slower overall response time on the PCNB (p = .003), while group differences on the SDMT did not meet significance (p = .03). Performance on the PCNB and SDMT were correlated (MS: r = 0.43, HC: r = 0.50, both p < .001), however, the degree of agreement for impairment was minimal (k = 0.22, p = .14).


Specific cognitive deficits exist independently of slowed information processing speed in POMS, and may represent more significant areas of dysfunction. Delineation of accuracy and response time in neuropsychological assessment is important to identify areas of cognitive deficit in POMS. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

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