Looking anew at cognitive dysfunction in MS: the gorilla in the room.

OBJECTIVE: Inattentional blindness refers to a phenomenon in which individuals fail to notice an object in plain sight. Present in healthy, cognitively intact individuals, it has not been studied in MSers in whom it could theoretically act as a marker for real-world cognitive difficulties in those deemed cognitively intact on conventional neuropsychological batteries. The hypothesis was that difficulty sustaining attention in MSers would paradoxically be associated with less inattentional blindness.

METHODSA cross-sectional study was undertaken in which a consecutive sample of 68 MSers completed neuropsychological testing with the Minimal Assessment of Cognitive Function in MS (MACFIMS) battery. Two additional tests were administered, the Stroop Test and a measure of inattentional blindness, i.e., the gorilla in the room paradigm. The gorilla test elicited 2 variables: the ability to detect the gorilla and the number of times a ball was passed between members of one team.

RESULTS: Cognitive dysfunction by MACFIMS criteria was present in 36.8% of subjects. There were no differences between MSers and healthy control subjects on the gorilla indices. Similarly, no inattentional differences were present between cognitively intact and impaired MSers. However, MSers who were impaired on the Stroop and 2-second Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test were more likely than their intact counterparts to detect the gorilla (p = 0.038 and 0.014, respectively), with Stroop-impaired MSers detecting fewer ball passes (p = 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS: The results support the hypothesis that less inattentional blindness is associated with heightened distractibility. This may explain why some MSers deemed cognitively intact on a battery of tests such as the MACFIMS still struggle with real-world challenges such as multitasking and filtering distracting stimuli.

You can try this test yourself:

“In psychology, the Stroop effect is a demonstration of the reaction time of a task. When the name of a colour (e.g., “blue,” “green,” or “red”) is printed in a colour not denoted by the name (e.g., the word “red” printed in blue ink instead of red ink), naming the colour of the word takes longer and is more prone to errors than when the colour of the ink matches the name of the color. The gorillia in the room test looks at passing the ball between people when a gorilla appears if you are concentrating on counting the catches do you see the gorilla?”

“Do you struggle with attention? This work explains why!”

2 thoughts on “Looking anew at cognitive dysfunction in MS: the gorilla in the room.”

  1. No joke. I didn't spot the gorilla. I also score 100% in Stroop and Stroop type tests. Called over focusing!!

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