Conference Coverage

Black holes are associated with impaired cognition in MS



In patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), black holes are associated with worse cognitive function, including processing speed and visuospatial memory, according to an investigation presented at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. Black holes are not associated with physical function, however. Evaluating black holes as part of routine clinical practice could be a quick method for screening people with MS for referral to a comprehensive cognitive assessment, said the authors.

Black holes (also known as T1-hypointense lesions) can be used as a marker of axonal loss and neuronal tissue destruction in patients with MS. Loss of axons and destruction of neuronal tissue contribute to cognitive and physical disability, but the literature contains few data about whether black holes correlate with cognitive and physical outcomes in MS.

Serkan Özakbas, MD, professor of neurology at Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir, Turkey, and colleagues examined 226 patients with MS to investigate this potential correlation. The population’s median Expanded Disability Status Scale score was 1.5. The researchers categorized participants into two groups according whether they had at least one black hole or not. They assessed patients’ cognitive function by administering the Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS (BICAMS), which comprises the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), California Verbal Learning Test II (CVLT-II), and the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test–Revised (BVMTR). They evaluated participants’ physical function using the Timed 25-Foot Walk (T25FW), Nine-Hole Peg Test (9HPT), 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT), Timed Up and Go (TUG), and 12-Item MS Walking Scale (MSWS-12).

In all, 116 (43.6%) participants had at least one black hole, and 150 (56.4%) had no black hole. Dr. Özakbas and colleagues found no significant difference between patients with and without black holes on the T25FW, 9HPT, 6MWT, TUG, MSWS-12, and CVLT-II. Patients without a black hole, however, had significantly higher SDMT (49.0 vs 42.9) and BVMTR (26.3 vs 23.3) scores, compared with those with at least one black hole.

“This study suggests that presence of black holes is related to cognitive function, but not to physical function,” the researchers concluded.

The investigators had no disclosures and conducted their study without financial support.

SOURCE: Özakbas S et al. CMSC 2019, Abstract IMG02.

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