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Cognition and psychological flexibility in multiple sclerosis - v1.0

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Exploring the relationship between cognition and psychological flexibility in multiple sclerosis



  • Contact name

    Philippa Beckwith

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    Solent NHS Trust

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    0 years, 6 months, 16 days

  • Research summary

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that causes changes to a person’s physical health as well as their memory and thinking skills (cognition). These life changing difficulties combined with the progressive yet unpredictable nature of MS can cause significant distress. Psychological therapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is recommended for people with MS. However, its focus on symptom reduction rather than adjustment to limitations, means there is growing interest in alternative psychological therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

    Rather than challenging distressing thoughts, feelings and sensations (as in CBT), the ACT model aims to improve psychological wellbeing by supporting people to develop greater awareness and acceptance of their experiences even when these are unpleasant. ACT encourages people to make behavioural changes in line with what is important to them. These things together are the cornerstone of ACT and are called psychological flexibility.

    Initial reports suggest that ACT may be useful for people with MS. However, engaging in any psychological therapy requires a certain level of cognitive ability and ACT is no exception. The literature to date exploring ACT in MS has not considered the impact of cognitive impairments on a person’s ability to become psychologically flexible. One study examining these ideas in people after brain injury highlighted a relationship between cognition and psychological flexibility. Therefore, this study aims to investigate if there is a relationship between cognitive performance and psychological flexibility in people with MS.

    Solent NHS Trust is funding this study, which is due to last for six months. Using a cross-sectional design, 90 adults with MS being seen in specialist nurse clinics and in the neuropsychology service will complete neuropsychological assessments examining their ability in a range of cognitive domains. These will be used to predict scores on three self-report measures of psychological flexibility.

  • REC name

    South Central - Berkshire Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    24 Dec 2015

  • REC opinion

    Favourable Opinion