MND affects thinking in up to 80 per cent of patients

Professor Sharon Abrahams looking at a screen showing brain scan images

Sep 2018: Our latest research suggests that four out of five people with MND are likely to experience changes in their brain function, as well as impaired movement.

A study led by Euan MacDonald Centre Investigator Profesor Sharon Abrahams has found that people with MND experience a decline in their thinking skills as well as undergoing behavioural changes – such as apathy – even at the earliest stages of the disease.

This is the first study to show that changes in thinking and language and behaviour are present in the earliest stages of MND and that these changes become more pronounced in the later stages of the condition.

These findings shed light on how MND affects the mind, and not just the systems controlling movement.

Professor Abrahams and her team used a test to assess skills such as attention, decision making, social cognition and language, and memory. Carers were also asked about any changes they had noticed in behaviour, such as apathy and loss of sympathy or empathy.

Some 161 people with MND took part in the study in the UK and Ireland. Their results were compared with those of 80 people who do not have the condition.

Researchers only tested people once, so it is not possible to say how thinking skills and behavioural problems might decline over time in an individual.

This study could help people understand that changes in thinking skills and behaviour are a common symptom of MND, and that early screening for these changes s could help patients and carers minimise the impact of these changes by providing appropriate support and care.

Professor Sharon Abrahams

The study is published in the journal Neurology. The research was funded by the ALS Association, with additional support from MND Scotland, European Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research, UK Medical Research Council, and Irish Health Research Board.

Related links

Our research theme: Improving quality of life today

Professor Sharon Abrahams' profile

Read the scientific publication in Neurology: ALS-specific cognitive and behavior changes associated with advancing disease stage in ALS. 

This article was published on: Wednesday, September 12, 2018