Do subcortical gray matter volumes and aerobic capacity account for cognitive-motor coupling in multiple sclerosis?

Robert W Motl, Brian M Sandroff, Ralph HB Benedict, ...

First Published March 31, 2020 Research Article


There is evidence of cognitive-motor coupling in multiple sclerosis (MS) such that the slowing of cognitive processing speed correlates with the worsening of walking speed and endurance.

The current study first established the presence of cognitive-motor coupling and second examined the possibility that volumes of subcortical gray matter (SGM) structures and aerobic capacity might explain the coupling of cognitive and motor functions in persons with MS.

We included data from 62 persons with clinically definite MS who underwent assessments of cognitive processing speed, walking performance, and aerobic capacity, and completed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) within 7 days of the aforementioned assessments.

The strong correlations between cognitive processing speed and walking performance were attenuated in magnitude and not statistically significant when controlling for aerobic capacity alone and aerobic capacity and SGM volumes together. The associations between cognitive processing speed and walking performance remained statistically significant when controlling for SGM volumes alone.

Aerobic capacity may be an important target for neurorehabilitation-based approaches for managing co-occurring cognitive and motor dysfunction in MS.