Research: verbal fluency

#MSBlog: Cogntive impairment in MS leaves verbal fluency relatively unscathed.

Epub: Messinis et al. Phonological fluency strategy of switching differentiates relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis patients. ISRN Neurol. 2013;2013:451429. doi: 10.1155/2013/451429.

Background: The strategies used to perform a verbal fluency task appear to be reflective of cognitive abilities necessary for successful daily functioning. 

Objectives & methods: The present study explored potential differences in verbal fluency strategies (switching and clustering) used to maximize word production by MSers with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) versus MSers with secondary progressive MS (SPMS). The study further assessed impairment rates and potential differences in the sensitivity and specificity of phonological versus semantic verbal fluency tasks in discriminating between those with a diagnosis of MS and healthy adults. 

“Verbal fluency tests are a psychological test in which participants have to say as many words as possible from a category in a given time (usually 60 seconds). This category can be semantic, such as animals or fruits, or phonemic, such as words that begin with letter p.”

Results: The study found that the overall rate of impaired verbal fluency in MSers was consistent with that in other studies. However, there were no differences between types of MS (SPMS, RRMS), on semantic or phonological fluency word production, or the strategies used to maximize semantic fluency. In contrast, we found that the number of switches differed significantly in the phonological fluency task between the SPMS and RRMS subtypes. 

Conclusion: The clinical utility of semantic versus phonological fluency in discriminating MSers from healthy controls did not indicate any significant differences. Further, the strategies used to maximize performance did not differentiate MS subgroups or MSers from healthy controls.

“Cognitive impairment in MS does not necessarily affect all domains; in this study verbal fluency is relatively well preserved. I am sure some of you are aware of this; the biggest problem MSers have is with multi-tasking and shifting from one task to another.”

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