Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Sensory Processing Difficulties Adversely Affect Functional Behavior in Multiple Sclerosis

Research team finds associations between sensory difficulties, cognitive impairment and disease severity in individuals with multiple sclerosis  

East Hanover, NJ. November 21, 2019. A team of researchers published new findings about the role of sensory processing and disease characteristics in the functional status of individuals with multiple sclerosis. This is one of the first studies to look at the implications of sensory processing deficits in this population. The article, "The role of sensory processing difficulties, cognitive impairment, and disease severity in predicting functional behavior among patients with multiple sclerosis", (doi: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1653998) was epublished on August 27, 2019 by Disability and Rehabilitation.

The authors are Batya Engel-Yeger, PhD, OT, of the University of Haifa, John DeLuca, PhD, and Patrick Hake of Kessler Foundation, and Yael Goverover, OTR/L, PhD, of New York University and Kessler Foundation. 

Little research has been done on the sensory processing difficulties affecting persons with multiple sclerosis, and the impact of these difficulties on their daily activities. This team of researchers examined the association between sensory processing deficits and cognitive impairments in individuals with MS, and the effects of sensory processing difficulties on functional behavior and disease severity.

Researchers enrolled 61 participants with multiple sclerosis, aged 23 to 63 years, and 36 healthy controls. The MS participants comprised 43 participants with cognitive impairments and 18 without impairments. Data collected included the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile, Functional Behavior Profile, and MS Functional Composite scores. Testing revealed the presence of differences in sensory processing including low ability to register sensory input, high sensory sensitivity, and sensory avoidance. 

Compared with healthy controls, the participants with MS were more likely to score higher on tests for sensory difficulties; there were no differences between the two MS groups. For the functional behavior profile, the control group had higher scores than both MS groups. Analyses of sensory findings, cognitive status, functional behavior profiles and disease severity showed a lack of effect of cognitive status on functional behavior. Disease severity and sensory processing deficits, however, did affect functional performance of everyday life activities.    

"This study underscores the influence of sensory processing in MS, and the importance of screening patients for these disorders,” said Dr. Goverover. “Further research is needed to explore whether sensory processing difficulties could be of predictive value for disease severity and cognitive decline,” she continued. “This approach may lead to interventions that improve function and support the full participation of people with MS in everyday life.” 

About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, National MS Society, Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, the Patterson Trust, Biogen Idec, Hearst Foundations, 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 the Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS and developed new treatments. Clinical studies span cognitive function, mobility, employment and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, mobile devices, eye-tracking, EEG, and virtual reality. Neuroimaging studies are conducted at the research-dedicated Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. Kessler researchers and clinicians have faculty appointments in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 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

For more information, or to interview an expert, contact: Carolann Murphy, PA, 973.324.8382,



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