Perceived Cognitive Deficits

  • Cognitive Changes

Why this study is important to me

As many as 65% of individuals who have MS report some level of change in their cognitive abilities.  In order to hold a job and navigate the demands of everyday living, we depend on our ability to learn and recall new information, pay attention, think quickly, and find the right word.  Changes in the way we think hold tremendous importance for people with MS.  Measuring these changes poses a challenge to both healthcare professionals and individuals living with MS, because other issues, such as depression, sense of self-sufficiency, and age, may affect how we think about or perceive our cognitive abilities.  This study used the Perceived Deficits Questionnaire (PDQ) to examine the nature of perceived cognitive changes in individuals who have MS.


Who was in the study?

The authors looked at 183 study participants.  Most of these participants were women (87.4%), non-Hispanic (90.2%), white (74.9%) of about 49 years of age, and, on average, they had been diagnosed with MS for slightly more than 12 years.  Their top three most frequent cognitive complaints included “trouble holding phone numbers in my head”, “find my mind drifting”, and “forget what I came into the room for.”


What did the study show?

The most consistent predictor of the way in which an individual with MS perceives their cognitive abilities is “self-efficacy.”  Self-efficacy refers to the belief of an individual in their own ability to effectively cope with challenging situations and involves the belief that one can successfully exert control over challenging circumstances.

Many previous studies of cognitive changes have linked them to depression, but the authors found relatively little association between depression and cognitive change.  The study also refuted another common association of age with cognitive change:  the authors found that complaints about cognitive problems actually appears to decrease with age.  One possible explanation they suggest is that, “as time passes, people adjust to their cognitive changes not “perceiving” that they are as severe or they consider these cognitive problems more normal because their same-age peers start experiencing them as well.”


What should I do if I believe my cognitive abilities are changing?

Cognitive function makes up an important element of our quality of life and our ability to interact in social settings.  Your healthcare provider can work with you to help to improve your perceived cognitive function.  The Perceived Deficits Questionnaire (PDQ) can be administered and scored in about five minutes, and it provides a reliable, valid measure of perceived cognitive difficulties.  As with most other aspects of living with MS, talking to your healthcare provider is essential to living well with MS.

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