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Cerebrospinal fluid neurofilament light chain tracks cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis

Journal article
Authors L. Gaetani
N. Salvadori
V. Lisetti
P. Eusebi
A. Mancini
L. Gentili
A. Borrelli
E. Portaccio
P. Sarchielli
Kaj Blennow
Henrik Zetterberg
L. Parnetti
P. Calabresi
M. Di Filippo
Published in Journal of Neurology
Volume 266
Issue 9
Pages 2157-2163
ISSN 0340-5354
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Pages 2157-2163
Language en
Keywords Multiple sclerosis, Neurofilament light chain, Cerebrospinal fluid, Cognitive impairment, Information, information-processing speed, dysfunction, attention, Neurosciences & Neurology
Subject categories Neurosciences, Neurology


Background Cognitive impairment (CI) is a disabling symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). Axonal damage disrupts neural circuits and may play a role in determining CI, but its detection and monitoring are not routinely performed. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurofilament light chain (NfL) is a promising marker of axonal damage in MS. Objective To retrospectively examine the relationship between CSF NfL and CI in MS patients. Methods CSF NfL concentration was measured in 28 consecutive newly diagnosed MS patients who underwent a neuropsychological evaluation with the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological tests (BRBN). Results CSF NfL was higher in patients with overall CI (947.8 +/- 400.7 vs 518.4 +/- 424.7 pg/mL, p < 0.01), and with impairment in information processing speed (IPS) (820.8 +/- 413.6 vs 513.6 +/- 461.4 pg/mL, p < 0.05) and verbal fluency (1292 +/- 511 vs 582.8 +/- 395.4 pg/mL, p < 0.05), and it positively correlated with the number of impaired BRBN tests (r = 0.48, p = 0.01) and cognitive domains (r = 0.47, p = 0.01). Multivariate analyses taking into account potential confounders confirmed these findings. Conclusion CSF NfL is higher in MS patients with CI and impaired IPS and verbal fluency. Large myelinated axons injury, causing neural disconnection, may be an important determinant of CI in MS and can be reliably measured through CSF NfL.

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