The effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) on cognition, thought to occur in 50-75% of persons with MS, have gained increasing recognition as one of the major disabling symptoms of the disease. While numerous studies have addressed the emotional and physical impact of MS, little attention has been given to strategies that might help manage the cognitive changes commonly experienced by persons with MS. The proposed study will test a novel computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation intervention, MAPSS-MS (Memory, Attention, &Problem Solving Skills for Persons with MS). The MAPSS-MS integrates the powerful effects of group interventions to build self-efficacy for new cognitive compensatory strategies/behaviors with individual home-based computer- assisted practice of cognitive skills. The computer training will assist individuals to develop cognitive skills that they can apply to everyday life using the compensatory strategies learned in the class sessions. In our recently completed exploratory study with 61 persons with MS (R21NR011076), the eight-week MAPSS-MS intervention was acceptable and feasible and had medium to large effects on the use of compensatory strategies and performance on neuropsychological tests of verbal memory. The proposed study will test the refined MAPSS-MS intervention with a larger more diverse sample (N=180) across multiple sites, extend the period of post-intervention follow-up to 6 months and establish whether performance improvements on neuropsychological tests make the important transfer to improved neurocognitive functioning in everyday life.
The specific aims of this study are to: (1) Evaluate the efficacy of the MAPSS-MS cognitive rehabilitation intervention in improving overall neurocognitive competence of persons with MS in activities of daily living, including verbal memory performance, use of compensatory cognitive strategies, and performance on cognitive-related instrumental activities of daily living (IADL);(2) Evaluate the efficacy of the MAPSS-MS intervention in improving self-efficacy and related aspects of cognitive performance (non-verbal learning/memory, information processing speed and attention, verbal fluency and complex scanning and tracking) among persons with MS;and (3) Determine the number of intervention participants who achieve and maintain their self-identified cognitive goals at three and six months following the intervention. The effects of the intervention on outcome variables will be assessed using a randomized controlled trial design with a comparison group receiving usual care computer games. Measurements of study variables will occur at baseline, immediately after the MAPSS-MS intervention, and three months and six months after the intervention is complete. Statistical analysis will include descriptive statistics and HLM analysis to account for the nested design. The intent-to-treat approach will be used.
This research will provide new knowledge about an innovative intervention to improve memory, use of compensatory strategies, and performance of cognitive activities and instrumental activities of daily living for persons with MS. If effective, the intervention will represent a new and feasible approach to solving a serious, debilitating problem commonly experienced by persons with MS.