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Deficits in Social Cognition: An Unveiled Signature of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Moussa A. Chalah (a1) (a2) and Samar S. Ayache (a1) (a2) (a3)


Background and Objectives: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic progressive inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, representing the primary cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. Cognitive dysfunction can affect patients at any time during the disease process and might alter the six core functional domains. Social cognition is a multi-component construct that includes the theory of mind, empathy and social perception of emotions from facial, bodily and vocal cues. Deficits in this cognitive faculty might have a drastic impact on interpersonal relationships and quality of life (QoL). Although exhaustive data exist for non-social cognitive functions in MS, only a little attention has been paid for social cognition. The objectives of the present work are to reappraise the definition and anatomy of social cognition and evaluate the integrity of this domain across MS studies. We will put special emphasis on neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies concerning social cognitive performance in MS. Methods:Studies were selected in conformity with PRISMA guidelines. We looked for computerized databases (PubMed, Medline, and Scopus) that index peer-reviewed journals to identify published reports in English and French languages that mention social cognition and multiple sclerosis, regardless of publication year. We combined keywords as follows: (facial emotion or facial expression or emotional facial expressions or theory of mind or social cognition or empathy or affective prosody) AND multiple sclerosis AND (MRI or functional MRI or positron emission tomography or functional imaging or structural imaging). We also scanned references from articles aiming to get additional relevant studies. Results: In total, 26 studies matched the abovementioned criteria (26 neuropsychological studies including five neuroimaging studies). Available data support the presence of social cognitive deficits even at early stages of MS. The increase in disease burden along with the “multiple disconnection syndrome” resulting from gray and white matters pathology might exceed the “threshold for cerebral tolerance” and can manifest as deficits in social cognition. Admitting the impact of the latter on patients’ social functioning, a thorough screening for such deficits is crucial to improving patients’ QoL. (JINS, 2017, 23, 266–286)

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Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Samar S. Ayache, Service de Physiologie – Explorations Fonctionnelles, Hôpital Henri Mondor, 51 avenue de Lattre de Tassigny, 94010 Créteil, France. E-mail:


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Deficits in Social Cognition: An Unveiled Signature of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Moussa A. Chalah (a1) (a2) and Samar S. Ayache (a1) (a2) (a3)


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