Kids with MS Struggle to Juggle

Black children with multiple sclerosis may be less able to multitask, according to study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Multiple sclerosis (MS) diminishes certain cognitive functions more severely in black children than white children, according to a new study.

The findings may lead to more individualized treatments, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Cognitive assessments were taken of 20 black and 22 white children with MS, a progressive autoimmune disease characterized by the body's immune system attacking the protective lining around nerves known as the myelin sheath and resulting in a score of neurological problems. Black children with the disease appeared to be at higher risk of problems related to language and complex attention (the ability to handle multiple tasks at once.)

"We don't yet understand the biological reasons, but the bottom line is treatment options must be reevaluated and be aggressive enough, especially with black patients, to prolong quality of life for as long as possible," lead author Kelly Ross, a psychology doctoral degree candidate at UA.

In adults, MS tends to more severely affect functions in blacks than in whites. The disease may impair cognitive function more often in young people than in adults because children's nervous systems are still developing.

According to the National MS Society, between 8,000 and 10,000 children (under the age of 18) have been diagnosed with MS with another 10,000 to 15,000 having experienced at least one symptom suggestive of the disease. These symptoms may include fatigue, visual disorders, numbness, dizziness/vertigo, bladder and bowel dysfunction, weakness, tremor and/or impaired mobility.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 17, 2010
Last Updated:
March 4, 2015