SEP 21, 2019 2:53 PM PDT

App Offers Assessment for Multiple Sclerosis

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School have reported on a new tablet-based app development concerned assessing cognitive function in a fast and accurate manner for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The app serves great use for health care providers who have not received any specialized training in assessing cognitive function in multiple sclerosis (MS). The app is called ‘iCAMS’.

Learn more about MS:

A chronic neurologic illness and a common form of disability, MS affects the central nervous system leading to a variety of symptoms involving motor issues, fatigue, visual disturbance, memory and concentration concerns, and mood changes. Diagnosis is usually deteremined between the ages of 20 and 50, and an estimated 1 million people in the United States are living with the disease. MS also affects women mostly with three women diagnosed for every one man.

The study evaluated iCAMS in an issue published in International Journal of MS Care and describes that findings “suggest that using the iCAMS app may make cognitive assessments of multiple sclerosis more convenient in a clinic setting, and therefore will be used more often to identify learning and memory problems,” says lead author of the stud, Meghan Beier, Ph.D., M.A., as well as assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

According to Beier, more than half of the people with MS experience cognitive problems and often need more time to perform mental tasks and face difficulty learning and retaining information. “Identifying cognitive issues earlier may help preserve and even improve function with targeted interventions such as cognitive rehabilitation,” says Beier.

Cognitive decline can also be due to aging, cardiovascular disease, depression and other conditions. However, specialized assessment tests were created to identify MS-related cognitive impairments and certain exercises have been noted to improve learning ability, along with spaced learning and self-generated learning.

The tablet-based app uses automatic prompts and written instructions to help medical assistants and/or other staff members guide patients through instructions to complete the assessment. The study involved 100 adults between the ages of 18-79 from the University of Washington Medicine Multiple Sclerosis Center who had an MS diagnosis. 74% of the participants were female with the average age of 46 and who had MS for an average of 10 to 11 years. Symptoms of the participants included vision loss, pain, and fatigue, loss of motor coordination, cramping and dizziness.

Researchers evaluated and administered the app to participants. "It was quick and very easy to learn how to administer," says Katie Rutter B.S., a medical assistant on the study. "Participants enjoyed testing on an iPad and often told me how much fun it was."

"Our goal is to reduce barriers for patients to receive the testing that may benefit their treatment and health through the use of digital technology," adds Abbey Hughes, Ph.D., M.A., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the study.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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