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Deficits in Prospective Memory Undermine MS Patients’ Independence

A new study finds that deficits in prospective memory in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) may contribute to difficulties with everyday life activities, undermining their independence.

While interest in memory difficulties in the MS population has grown, most studies focus on retrospective memory, or the recall of previously learned information, according to researchers at the Kessler Foundation.

Few studies have addressed difficulties with prospective memory, which entails remembering to perform an intention at a future point in time or “remembering to remember.”

Problems with prospective memory are associated with poor everyday functioning and, in MS specifically, with a greater likelihood of unemployment, according to researchers.

For the new study, researchers recruited 30 adults with MS between the ages of 28 and 65 and 30 healthy people. All participants underwent neuropsychological assessment, prospective memory assessment (Memory for Intentions Screening Test, MIST), and an everyday functioning assessment developed at Kessler Foundation (KF-Actual Reality), which presents individuals with three online purchasing tasks.

All the participants were then presented with two types of prospective memory tasks: Event-based tasks, which have relatively low strategic cognitive demands, and time-based tasks, which require more higher-order resources for successful completion.

An example of an event-based task would be remembering to mail a letter when passing a post office. An example of a time-based task would be remembering to call the doctor on Wednesday morning.

The findings show that, compared to the healthy group, the MS group had more difficulty with tests of prospective memory, and their performance was poorer on time-based tasks than on event-based tasks.

Time-based deficits were associated with deficits in executive function, as well as lower motor scores, indicating a possible link between prospective memory and MS disease severity, according to Dr. Erica Weber, a research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research.

“Poor prospective memory hinders the ability to perform a broad range of everyday life activities, which undermines individuals’ independence,” she said. “Our findings indicate that developing strategies that improve time-based functioning may help individuals with MS improve their prospective memory and support their efforts to maintain their independence.”

The study was published by the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Source: Kessler Foundation

Deficits in Prospective Memory Undermine MS Patients’ Independence

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2020). Deficits in Prospective Memory Undermine MS Patients’ Independence. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Feb 2020 (Originally: 7 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 7 Feb 2020
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