Rethinking Healthcare

Warm days aren't so sunny for people with MS

Posting in Technology

Just as many of us are looking forward to warmer months ahead, scientists are finding that higher temperatures can hinder the cognitive performance of people with multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has long perplexed researchers by its prevalence in more temperate regions of the world. A new study from the Kessler Foundation Research Center (KFRC) further complicates the association between MS and outdoor temperature.

The study in the journal Neurology reports that people with MS perform worse on cognitive tests during warmer days of the year.

MS patients have been known to suffer more medical problems on hotter days. The KFRC researchers wanted to know if higher temperatures also impacted cognitive function.

The team gave cognitive tests to 40 patients with MS and 40 healthy control subjects over the course of a year. People with MS scored 70% higher on cooler days than warmer ones, while temperature did not correlate to cognitive performance in the healthy control subjects.

These findings could affect the way researchers look at data from clinical trials of people with MS. Many trials run for at least six months, spanning multiple seasons. Differences in outdoor temperature could confound comparisons between cognitive tests taken at the beginning and end of the trials.

Photo: Iain Buchanan/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure