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Memory, processing of emotional stimuli and volume of limbic structures in pediatric MS

Full Title: Memory, processing of emotional stimuli and volume of limbic structures in pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis

Fabri T, Datta R, O’Mahony J, Barlow-Krelina E, De Somma E, Longoni G, Gur RE, Gur RC, Bacchus M, Yeh AE, Banwell B, Till C

NeuroImage Clinical


  • Age- and sex-matched groups were compared on episodic memory and emotion identification outcomes.

  • POMS patients showed reduced accuracy on a test of word recognition.

  • POMS patients were slower to recognize faces that were recently presented.

  • Total and regional hippocampal, amygdala, and thalamic volumes are lower in POMS.

  • Memory for words was associated with both hippocampal and thalamic volume.



The limbic system is involved in memory and in processing of emotional stimuli. We measured volume of the hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus, and assessed their relative contribution to episodic memory and emotion identification in POMS.


Sixty-five POMS participants (Mage = 18.3 ± 3.9 years; 48 female (73.8%)), average disease duration = 3.8 ± 3.8 years) and 76 age- and sex-matched controls (Mage = 18.1 ± 4.6 years; 49 female (64.5%)) completed the Penn Computerized Neurocognitive Battery (PCNB); 59 of 65 POMS participants and 69 out of 76 controls underwent 3 T MRI scanning. We derived age-adjusted Z-scores on accuracy and response time (RT) measures of episodic memory and emotion identification of the PCNB. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) volumetrics were normalized using the scaling factor computed by SIENAx. On PCNB tests that differed between groups, we used multiple linear regression to assess relationships between regional brain volumes and either episodic memory or emotion identification outcomes controlling for age, sex, accuracy/RT, and parental education.


POMS participants were slower and less accurate than controls on the episodic memory domain but did not differ from controls on emotion outcomes. At the subtest level, POMS participants showed reduced accuracy on Word Memory (p = .002) and slower performance on Face Memory (p = .04) subtests. POMS participants had smaller total and regional brain volumes of the hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus (p values ≤ 0.01). Collapsing across groups, both hippocampal and thalamic volume were significant predictors of Word Memory accuracy; hippocampal volume (B = 0.24, SE = 0.10, p = .02) was more strongly associated with Word Memory performance than thalamic volume (B = 0.16, SE = 0.05, p = .003), though the estimate with was less precise.


POMS participants showed reduced episodic memory performance compared to controls. Aspects of episodic memory performance were associated with hippocampal and thalamic volume. Emotion identification was intact, despite volume loss in the amygdala.


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