Study Examines Social Cognition, Fatigue, and Mood in Multiple Sclerosis

Investigators linked deficits in social cognition in patients with MS with increased symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.

Researchers linked social cognitive deficits in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) with increased symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Their findings were published in the Journal of Neuropsychology.1

The investigators evaluated 28 individuals with MS for impairments in social cognition using facial affect recognition and theory of mind. They looked for associations between deficits in social cognition by screening for fatigue, depression, and anxiety using the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.

The researchers found consistent connections between poorer performance on measures of social cognition and increased symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Cognitive ability was not a factor in these relationships.

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The findings raise questions about causality and reciprocal effects, said lead author Helen Genova, PhD, assistant director of the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research at the Kessler Foundation. “The nature of the relationships among these variables remains unclear. We cannot say whether deficits of social cognition worsen mood condition and fatigue, or vice versa.”2

She added: “The relationships may be reciprocal in nature. Poor social cognition may worsen fatigue, depression and anxiety, leading to greater social isolation. That, in turn, may worsen social cognitive function.”

Although the results are preliminary, the authors concluded that they “help us better understand the association between social cognitive abilities and other symptoms in MS, including depressive symptomatology, anxiety, and fatigue.”1


  1. Genova HM, Lancaster K, Lengenfelder J, et al. Relationship between social cognition and fatigue, depressive symptoms, and anxiety in multiple sclerosis [published online June 1, 2019]. J Neuropsychol. 2019;doi: 10.1111/jnp.12185
  2. Kessler researchers investigate social cognition, mood and fatigue in multiple sclerosis [press release]. East Hanover, NJ; Kessler Foundation; August 28, 2019.