The prevalence of cognitive impairment in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Wendy Wu*, Heather Francis, Abbie Lucien, Tyler-Ann Wheeler, Milena Gandy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is increasingly recognized that cognitive symptoms are a common sequelae of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and are associated with adverse functional consequences. However, estimates of cognitive impairment (CIm) prevalence vary widely. This study aimed to determine the pooled prevalence of CIm among adults with RRMS and investigate moderators of prevalence rates. Following prospective registration (PROSPERO; CRD42021281815), electronic databases (Embase, Scopus, Medline, and PsycINFO) were searched from inception until March 2023. Eligible studies reported the prevalence of CIm among adults with RRMS, as determined through standardized neuropsychological testing and defined as evidence of reduced performance across at least two cognitive domains (e.g., processing speed, attention) relative to normative samples, healthy controls, or premorbid estimates. The electronic database search yielded 8695 unique records, of which 50 met selection criteria. The pooled prevalence of cognitive impairment was 32.5% (95% confidence interval 29.3–36.0%) across 5859 participants. Mean disease duration and age were significant predictors of cognitive impairment prevalence, with samples with longer disease durations and older age reporting higher prevalence rates. Studies which administered more extensive test batteries also reported significantly higher cognitive impairment prevalence. Approximately one third of adults with RRMS experience clinical levels of CIm. This finding supports the use of routine cognitive testing to enable early detection of CIm, and to identify individuals who may benefit from additional cognitive and functional support during treatment planning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2024


  • multiple sclerosis
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • neuropsychology
  • prevalence


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