Kessler Foundation Press Releases

MS researchers link neuro-ophthalmic syndromes with poor visual neuropsychological task performance

dr costa wearing a white coat

US and Portuguese scientists collaborate on first study to look at self-reported history of neuro-ophthalmic syndromes among individuals with MS and poor performance on visual neuropsychological testing

West Orange, NJ. October 5, 2015.  Scientists found that individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) who had a history of neuroophthalmic syndromes performed poorly on visual neuropsychological tasks. The article, "Neuro-ophthalmic syndromes and processing speed in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology. The authors are Silvana Costa, PhD, of the University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, and Kessler Foundation, Dr. Oscar Goncalves of the University of Minho,  Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD and John DeLuca, PhD of Kessler Foundation, and Jorge Almeida of the University of Coimbra, Portugal.

Blurred vision, diplopia, and nystagmus are among the symptoms of the neuro-ophthalmic syndromes seen in MS. Visual Symptoms may be harbingers of MS, or occur during the clinical course of the disease. Although neuro-ophthalmic syndromes and cognitive symptoms are common among people with MS, few studies have looked at the relationship between these two conditions. In this study, 9 healthy controls were compared with 18 participants with relapsing-remitting MS and normal visual acuity. In the MS group, 12 had a history of neuro-ophthalmic syndromes and 6 did not.

 “The group with a history of neuro-ophthalmic syndromes performed poorly on tasks of visual processing speed,” noted Dr. Costa. “Performance appeared to be influenced by the time-limited nature of the task, suggesting that participants with a history of neuro-ophthalmic syndromes have residual delays in visual processing speed. History of these syndromes was also associated with poor performance on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), which may be caused by the need for more time to process the visual stimuli, thus limiting the time available for the cognitive task of linking the numerals.”

Future studies should include more objective measures of vision, neuroimaging data, and valid measures of disease progression and disability.

This study was funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology of Portugal program COMPETE, and 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, Consortium of MS Centers, the Patterson Trust, Biogen Idec, Hearst Foundation, the International Progressive MS Alliance, 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, mobile devices, 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

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