Public Release:  Kessler Foundation MS researchers study predictors of employment status

Comparison of cognitive tests shows SDMT effective in determining employment status in MS

Kessler Foundation

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IMAGE: Dr. Strober is a research scientist in neuropsychology and neuroscience research at Kessler Foundation. view more

Credit: Kessler Foundation

West Orange, NJ. January 31, 2014. Researchers at Kessler Foundation have studied the measurement tools used in multiple sclerosis for their effectiveness in predicting employment status. They compared the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC), the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT), and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), and found the SDMT effective in differentiating employed from unemployed individuals. The article, Unemployment in multiple sclerosis (MS): utility of the MS Functional Composite and cognitive testing, was published in the January 2014 issue of Multiple Sclerosis Journal (doi: 10.1177/1352458513488235). The authors are Lauren Strober, PhD, Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, Nancy Moore, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, of Kessler Foundation.

"The population with MS comprises people of working age," noted Dr. Strober, senior research scientist, "which is why factors related to employment status are a major concern for individuals and clinicians." The researchers studied 77 people with MS; 40 were employed and 37 were unemployed. To determine which factor(s) were predictive of employment status, they compared the two groups in regard to demographic factors, disease variables, MSFC, and cognitive performance. Differences were found in disease duration and progression, upper extremity function, processing speed, verbal learning and memory, and executive function. Analysis revealed the SDMT to be the only predictor of employment status, with an overall accuracy of 67%. "These findings suggest that clinical use of the SDMT may help identify those individuals who are at risk for unemployment," she explained. "This would allow clinicians to advise them on strategies for maintaining employment."

"Unemployment research is a priority at Kessler Foundation," remarked Dr. Chiaravalloti, "because maintaining employment is such an important factor in the quality of life of persons with MS."

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Funding provided by Kessler Foundation.

About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National MS Society, NJ Commission of Brain Injury Research, Consortium of MS Centers, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP for Research & Training, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, emotional processing, employment and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, iPADs, and virtual reality. Among recent findings are the benefits of cognitive reserve and aerobic exercise; correlation between cognitive performance and outdoor temperatures; efficacy of short-term cognitive rehabilitation using modified story technique; factors related to risk for unemployment, and the correlation between memory improvement and cerebral activation on fMRI. Foundation research scientists have faculty appointments at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.
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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973.324.8382; CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org
Lauren Scrivo, 973.324.8384/973.768.6583 (cell); LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

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