Cognitive fog

Changes in thinking and memory

About 50 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis will develop some degree of cognitive fog. This generally means slowed ability to think, reason, concentrate, or remember.

However, only 5-10% of people develop problems that are severe enough to interfere in a significant way with everyday activities. While cognitive dysfunction is more common among people who have had the disease for a long time, it can be seen early in the disease course — even as the first symptom.

Multiple sclerosis may affect cognitive function for several reasons. First and foremost, it damages both myelin and the nerve cells within the brain, compromising a variety of functions handled by the brain. MRI studies have indicated that the extent of demyelination in the brain is related to severity of cognitive dysfunction.

However, multiple sclerosis can also affect cognition indirectly. The disease is often associated with depression, anxiety, stress and fatigue, all of which may compromise cognitive functioning. Fatigue can be particularly challenging to a person’s ability to sustain some mental tasks.

Learn more: publications

Learn more: Get Your ACT Together online tool

To hear more symptom management strategies try the Get Your ACT Together online tool which provides you with a personalised symptom management report.

Learn more: previous webinars


Breaking Down Barriers to Connections

May is MS Awareness month and the theme this year is Connecting to Others. But how can we maintain connections when MS causes changes to cognition that seem to get in the way of creating and maintaining relationships? In this program, Dr Luke Smith, Clinical Neuropsychologist will explore the barriers that cognitive change causes and give us some tips for breaking down these barriers and improving our interactions. You will go away feeling encouraged and with great practical strategies to implement. This is a great program for family members and friends to also attend. (Recorded 17 May 2021)

Handouts: Breaking Down Barriers to Connections

"Let's think about your thinking" with Dr Luke Smith

An interactive presentation with Dr Luke Smith posing questions and asking you to think about your thinking and memory. A great opportunity to learn more about your cognition, memory and thinking. (Recorded 21 October 2020)

Handouts: Let's think about your Thinking

Brain Wellness (30 minutes)

This webinar, presented by Dr Heather Francis, Neuropsychologist and Lecturer, aims to provide information on how diet affects the brain, including the latest research to show how diet can improve thinking in people with MS. The focus will be particularly on the mechanisms through which diet can reduce the pro-inflammatory state of multiple sclerosis, and what is known about how this can improve cognition. The webinar will also briefly discuss how other lifestyle strategies such as exercise, socialising and being cognitively engaged, can also improve brain functioning. (Recorded Aug 2018)

Handouts: Brain Wellness

Managing Cognition in the Workplace

When thinking and memory are impacted by multiple sclerosis there are a variety of strategies and approaches that can be trialled and implemented to minimise the impact on work. Join the team from the MS Employment Support Service to explore these different approaches and find out what you can do to help manage your changing cognition in your workplace. (Recorded 16 June 2021)

Handouts: Managing Cognition in the Workplace 

Thinking and Memory - Management Strategies

Thinking and memory changes in multiple sclerosis may go unrecognised. They are also often difficult for the person with multiple sclerosis and those around them to understand. Ben Harris is a senior clinical neuropsychologist whose current public appointments are in community aged psychiatry for Monash Health, and in the Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service for St Vincent's Health. The session will cover strategies to assist in managing these changes. (Recorded March 2017)

 Handouts : Thinking and Memory - Management Strategies

Thinking and memory - improving your memory

Recorded November 2016
 Handouts : Thinking and memory - improving your memory

Thinking and memory - maintaining your attention

Recorded November 2016
Handouts : Thinking and memory - maintaining your attention
Read more about Ben Harris


Learn more: upcoming programs

Visit our MS Education section to learn more about upcoming programs. For more information or to register please email or call MS Connect™ (Freecall 1800 042 138).


Seeing MS - Brain fog

Photographed by Sara Orme
Inspired by Jessica Anderson's invisible symptom

brain fog

It’s scary not being able to make sense of your own thoughts.


Brain fog

The brain’s ability to connect thoughts is disrupted. Concentrating in conversation or recalling a recent event can become an incredible challenge.

Sara Orme

Sara Orme is a New Zealand based lifestyle photographer. Her work evokes both strength and fragility by capturing beauty in a raw, naturalistic manner.

About Jessica

Diagnosed when she was just twelve years old, Jessica Anderson has been a role model for the young and ambitious ever since. Brain fog can make it difficult for Jess to stick to one thought for more than 30 seconds.

Symptom management

There are several treatments available to ease specific symptoms and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.

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You don’t have to explain yourself to us – we already get it – and we are here to help you and your family with all these things and more, while the search for a cure continues.

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