Anxiety and brain speed

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Anxiety and cognitive impairment are a vicious cycle. #MSBlog #MSResearch

“This study confirms that MS, or the shredder, affects cognition, in particular complex attention and information processing speed. It also demonstrates that anxiety is linked to cognitive impairment. I am not surprised as anxiety is psychiatric symptom that is almost certainly linked to disease pathology. Does cognitive impairment make anxiety worse, or does anxiety make cognitive impairment worse? It appears we have a vicious cycle, which can be broken by  the judicious use of medication or cognitive behavioural therapy. If after reducing the anxiety the cognitive worsens we can claim that anxiety is contributing to the cognitive impairment. Another confounder is sleep and fatigue. Anxiety affects sleep and if you are not getting good quality sleep you may have increased daytime fatigue and hence reduced cognition. The message is simple if you have anxiety you need to get it treated. Don’t suffer in silence ask your neurologist or MS nurse.”


Epub: Goretti et al. Anxiety state affects information processing speed in patients with multiple sclerosis. Neurol Sci. 2013 Sep.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of anxiety on the cognitive performance of a clinical sample of relapsing-remitting MSers. 


Methods: One hundred ninety MSers (140 females) were included in the study and assessed through the beck depression inventory, the state-trait anxiety inventory and the Rao’s brief repeatable battery which assesses cognitive domains most frequently impaired in MS. 

Results: As for neuropsychological performance, a total of 76 (40 %) subjects fulfilled our criterion for cognitive impairment. Tests most frequently failed by cognitively impaired (CI) MSers were those assessing complex attention and information processing speed [Simbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), Paced Auditory Serial Auditory Test (PASAT) 3 and 2] and verbal memory. In the univariate analysis, state anxiety was related to failure on the SDMT (p = 0.042), and marginally, to failure on the PASAT-3 (p = 0.068), and to the presence of CI (p = 0.082). Moderate/severe depression was detected in 38 (20 %) patients and fatigue in 109 (57 %). Higher depression scores were related to impairment on the ST (OR = 1.05; 95 % CI 1.01-1.10; p = 0.029)

Conclusion: Anxiety affects complex attention and information processing speed 

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

1 comment

  • It depends on what is causing our anxiety. I know that anxiety affects my cognitive impairment. just as it does with my able bodied peers. Medication is not the answer, as the problems do not disappear after taking a pill. I know this as I have tried. I ended up in a worse place than when I started taking drugs.
    My cognitive aptitude improves after a while..

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