The brain tissue damage associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) can impair a person’s ability to interpret social situations, including the awareness of other people’s feelings, according to a brain image study recently published in Neurology journal.
The study tested 120 people—60 people with relapsing or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and 60 control participants—for indications of decline in social cognition under several types of assessment tests. On three different cognition tests, those with MS scored significantly lower than those without the disease, some nearly 23 percent lower, according to the study data. Those with MS also scored slightly lower on a video task test than the control group.
The findings may shed light on unexpected behaviors from those with more advanced stages of MS and may help caregivers interact with them in more productive ways.
“This increasing interest in cognitive function has been mirrored by a parallel increase in studies of social cognition: a collection of psychological processes that facilitate interpersonal communication and interaction by helping individuals understand how others think and feel,” study authors Nils Muhlert, PhD, and Jack Cotter, MSc write in an editorial commentary about the study. Since social cognition can affect relationships with caregivers, other residents and family members, the authors add, “social cognition is therefore potentially of particular relevance to people with MS, for whom peer support is one of the main determinants of quality of life.”
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