Multiple sclerosis (MS) is largely an adulthood disease, with most research activity and clinical resources targeted towards adults. The number of children diagnosed with MS, and other demyelinating conditions is steadily increasing, largely due to technological advances and increased awareness. Adults with MS commonly experience difficulties in cognition, behaviour and social functioning, however, little is known about how childhood MS affects these domains. This study investigates the impact of childhood MS and demyelination on family, social and academic functioning, from time of diagnosis for two years, to identify pattern of impairments, changes over time, and establish key the support needs.
Why some children experience a single attack while others experience multiple relapses, as in MS, remains unknown. Impairments in cognition, behaviour, and social functioning are some of the most debilitating symptoms of adult MS, and children are even more vulnerable to such problems, due to incomplete brain development and less mature coping skills.
Knowing the impact that single versus multiple episodes of demyelination has on children’s cognition, behaviour and social outcome will provide parents, families and children with MS or childhood demyelination with important information about what to expect and look for, the potential course of such changes, and potential ways to overcome these difficulties. By correlating changes in cognitive, behavioural, and social functioning, with modern neuroimaging techniques and other disease characteristics, we can better predict children at high risk for deficits, as well as those at risk of developing MS. This research will provide important contributions not only to our understanding of childhood MS but also adult MS.
Little is known about the acute and long-term course of cognitive, behavioural and social function in children with MS and childhood demyelination, despite the potential impact that impairments in these domains may have for ongoing development and later life.
By characterising the nature and frequency of these problems for children with MS and childhood demyelination, we will provide important information for individuals, families and educators, to ensure early intervention and appropriate support, when necessary. In addition, by comparing clinical and functional profiles we hope to be able to contribute knowledge regarding early and accurate differentiation of childhood demyelinating conditions.
This will be the first funded research project in the Southern Hemisphere dedicated to investigating the neurological, cognitive, behavioural and social impact of childhood MS and other demyelinating conditions. It will identify Australia as a key partner in this research area and facilitate multi-centre, national and international collaborations.
Findings from the project have significance at a number of levels:
1. Extending scientific knowledge;
2. Improving accuracy of diagnosis and differentiation of these conditions;
3. Providing information which may be used to advocate for the needs of these children both in school and in the wider community; and
4. Informing families, teachers and health professionals about the patterns of difficulties expected in this group, and those that will be at highest risk for them.
MS is largely an adult disease, with most research activity and clinical resources targeted towards adults. The number of children diagnosed with MS, and other demyelinating conditions is steadily increasing, largely due to technological advances and increased awareness. Adults with MS commonly experience difficulties in cognition, behaviour and social functioning, however, little is known about how childhood MS affects these domains.
This study investigates the impact of childhood MS and demyelination on family, social and academic functioning, from time of diagnosis for two years, to identify patterns of impairment, changes over time, and establish key support needs.
During 2010 the research team have begun participant recruitment and have been working on a number of publications in books and journals on cognitive outcomes of childhood MS and other demyelinating conditions in children. All suitable children have been identified and referred to the study over the last 12 months. The primary goal for the next 12 months will be to maximise recruitment.
Deery, B., Anderson, V., Jacobs, R., Neale, J., & Kornberg, A. (2010). Childhood MS and ADEM: Investigation and Comparison of Neurocognitive Features in Children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35: 5, 506 — 521
Greenham, M., Spencer-Smith, M.M., Anderson, P.J., Coleman, L., & Anderson, V. (2010). Social functioning in children with brain insult. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. 4: 22-22 EPUB.
Deery, B., & Anderson, V. (2011). Childhood Multiple Sclerosis. In J.L. Morgan, I.S. Baron & J.H. Ricker (Eds), Casebook of Clinical Neuropsychology. USA: Oxford University Press.
Updated: 06 January, 2009