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Stroop performance in multiple sclerosis: Information processing, selective attention, or executive functioning?

  • J.A.B. MACNIVEN (a1), C. DAVIS (a2), M.-Y. HO (a2), C.M. BRADSHAW (a2), E. SZABADI (a2) and C.S. CONSTANTINESCU (a3)...

Abstract

Cognitive impairments in information processing speed, attention and executive functioning are widely reported in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Several studies have identified impaired performance on the Stroop test in people with MS, yet uncertainty remains over the cause of this phenomenon. In this study, 25 patients with MS were assessed with a neuropsychological test battery including a computerized Stroop test and a computerized test of information processing speed, the Graded Conditional Discrimination Tasks (GCDT). The patient group was compared with an individually age, sex and estimated premorbid IQ-matched healthy control group. The patients' reaction times (RTs) were significantly longer than those of the controls on all Stroop test trials and there was a significantly enhanced absolute (RTincongruent-RTneutral) and relative (100·[RTincongruent-RTneutral]/RTneutral) Stroop interference effect for the MS group. The linear function relating RT to stimulus complexity in the GCDT was significantly steeper in the patient group, indicating slowed information processing. The results are discussed with reference to the difference engine model, a theory of diversity in speeded cognition. It is concluded that, in the assessment of people with MS, great caution must be used in the interpretation of performance on neuropsychological tests which rely on RT as the primary measure. (JINS, 2008, 14, 805–814.)

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Jamie Macniven, Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, D Floor, West Block, Queen's Medical Centre Campus, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, United Kingdom. E-mail: jamie.macniven@nottingham.ac.uk

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