Background: Cognitive fatigue can be objectively measured on tasks of sustained attention and can be defined as decreased performance as a result of sustained cognitive effort. Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) early in their disease are vulnerable to cognitive fatigue, although this has yet to be evaluated longitudinally. We aimed to evaluate cognitive fatigue over a 3-year interval in individuals with early-phase relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). The sensitivity of the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) at detecting cognitive fatigue was evaluated, as was the impact of scoring method. Methods: 32 people with MS and 32 controls completed the 3- and 2-second PASAT (PASAT-3" and -2") as a measure of sustained attention at baseline and 3-year follow-up. Results: Performance on the PASAT remained stable across time, with improvement noted on the PASAT- 2" likely due to practice and the small sample size. Cognitive fatigue was noted at both times, although sensitivity varied based on scoring method. No evidence of worsening cognitive fatigue was noted over time. The MS group performed worse only when cognitive fatigue was the outcome variable. Conclusions: Although individuals with MS continue to be vulnerable to cognitive fatigue at follow-up, severity does not seem to increase with time. Cognitive fatigue may be a more sensitive marker of cognitive impairment than overall task performance in those with early-phase RRMS, which has important implications given that clinically only task performance is typically assessed.

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Journal International Journal of MS Care
Berard, J.A. (Jason A.), Smith, A.M. (Andra M.), & Walker, L.A.S. (2018). A longitudinal evaluation of cognitive fatigue on a task of sustained attention in early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. International Journal of MS Care, 20(2), 55–61. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2016-106