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Working Memory Deficits In Multiple Sclerosis: Comparison Between Then-back Task And The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test

BRETT A. PARMENTER, JANET L. SHUCARD, RALPH H.B. BENEDICT, DAVID W. SHUCARD

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Working memory (WM) deficits are common in multiple sclerosis (MS). The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) is used frequently to measure WM in clinical settings. Then-back paradigm is used often in experimental studies of WM. One unique component of then-back task is that it provides a measure of reaction time (RT), an additional behavioral index of processing speed and task difficulty. Despite the use of both tasks to measure WM, their common variance has not been documented. We tested 32 MS patients and 20 controls; performance measures were obtained for both tasks. Compared with controls, MS patients generally had poorer performance on both the PASAT andn-back task. MS patients also had slower RTs on then-back than controls and showed more slowing than controls as a function of WM load. Correlational analyses showed a high correspondence between performance measures on the PASAT andn-back. Principal components analysis pointed to a common feature of the PASAT,n-back, and specific other neuropsychological measures, that is, processing speed. Although the PASAT andn-back were shown to have a significant amount of shared variance, each test has specific advantages and disadvantages for use in clinical populations (JINS, 2006,12, 677–687.)