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RRMS patients can experience issue with social cognition, without cognitive impairment

A study, published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, has revealed that relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients can experience an impairment in social cognition, even if they do not experience cognitive impairment.

Social cognition is how people are able to process, store, and apply information about other people and social situations. Most studies on this subject have not been controlled for generalised cognitive impairment and not examined the role of the amygdala using advanced structural neuroimaging. The amygdala is an almond-shaped section of nervous tissue located in the temporal (side) lobe of the brain. It is responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memory.

Researchers set out to discover whether deficits in social cognition occur in the disease even before the concomitant manifestation of cognitive impairment, with a specific interest in the role of bilateral amygdala.

Thirty-one RRMS patients and 38 healthy controls took part in the study. The results showed that the RRMS group did worse when compared to the healthy control group in the social intelligence test (Reading the Mind in the Eyes); facial affect recognition (FAR) and empathy quotient (EQ) tests. These patients mainly had difficulty recognising the negative emotions of fear and anger.

In addition, cortical lesion volume of bilateral amygdala was a significant predictor of issues with social intelligence and facial affect recognition.

The researchers concluded that social cognition can be impaired in several domains in RRMS patients even in the absence of cognitive impairment and that it is related specifically to bilateral amygdala damage as measured by cortical lesion volume.

Source: MS-UK, 12/02/2019

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