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Difficulties in Planning Among Patients with Multiple Sclerosis: A Relative Consequence of Deficits in Information Processing Speed

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2013

Emily M. Owens
Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
Douglas R. Denney*
Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
Sharon G. Lynch
Department of Neurology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Douglas R. Denney, Department of Psychology, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045-7556. E-mail:


Previous studies show that MS patients take longer than healthy controls to plan their solutions to Tower of London (TOL) problems but yield conflicting results regarding the quality of their solutions. The present study evaluated performance under untimed or timed conditions to assess the possibility that differences in planning ability only occur when restrictions in solution times are imposed. MS patients (n = 39) and healthy controls (n = 43) completed a computerized version of the TOL under one of two conditions. In the untimed condition, participants were allowed as much time as needed on each problem. In the timed condition, limits were imposed on solution times and time remaining was displayed with each problem. Patients exhibited longer planning times than controls, and the disparity between groups increased with problem difficulty. Planning performance depended upon condition. In the untimed condition, patients and controls performed equally well. When solution times were restricted, however, patients solved fewer problems than controls. MS patients’ planning ability is intact when permitted sufficient time to formulate the required plan. Deficiencies in planning are only evident when time is restricted, and, therefore, are more accurately considered a relative consequence of disease-related problems in information processing speed. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–8)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2013

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