Tips and Tricks

Concentration can be more of an effort for some people with MS. This can be dispiriting if following a good book, or a good film, seems difficult. People with MS say that they “lose train of thought”, “…can’t concentrate when all the family is here”, and they have been “feeling stupid as I lost the point in conversations”. However, there are strategies which some people find helpful.

Other Important Influences

There are a number of outside factors that might make your mental skills less efficient:

Further reading

Wendebourg MJ, Heesen C, Finlayson M, Meyer B, Pöttgen J, Köpke S. Patient education for people with multiple sclerosis-associated fatigue: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 7;12(3):e0173025.

Golan D, Doniger GM, Wissemann K, Zarif M, Bumstead B, Buhse M, Fafard L, Lavi I, Wilken J, Gudesblatt M. The impact of subjective cognitive fatigue and depression on cognitive function in patients with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2017

Lubrini G, Ríos Lago M, Periañez JA, Tallón Barranco A, De Dios C, Fernández-Fourier M, Diez Tejedor E, Frank García A. The contribution of depressive symptoms to slowness of information processing in relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2016 Oct;22(12):1607-1615. Erratum in: Mult Scler. 2016 Nov 25

Professional Help

If your concentration problems are fairly mild, and you are just concerned with slips at work, then your health professional is likely to work on tasks that mimic the work situation. For example, if you need to read insurance policies at work, the therapist may arrange for old, anonymous policies to have errors or rogue words typed in at intervals. You will then read the documents, attempting to spot the errors, using various strategies. By measuring how well you do, the therapist can assess how effective a strategy is.

If your concentration problems are more severe, for example it is hard for you to follow a conversation that contains important information about your health, more factors will be taken into account. It is likely that key situations will be identified with you by your health professional. These will be individually targeted using a combination of strategies.

MS Trust Publications

Cognition in the A-Z of MS

This A-Z entry describes the range of cognitive problems that can occur with MS difficulties with short-term memory, concentration, verbal fluency - and discusses ways to approach managing the various problems.

More general information about MS

Making Sense of MS

If you've just been diagnosed, this small postcard-sized booklet is a good place to start learning about MS. It provides a brief introduction to multiple sclerosis and answers the questions most commonly asked after diagnosis.

At work with MS

The resource considers some of the ways in which MS might affect work, the protection afforded under the Equality Act and what adjustments can be made for a successful working life with MS.

MS and me

A self-management guide to living with MS. Looks at setting goals, problem solving and healthy living, explores how to better understand your symptoms and how working with health professionals can help you make decisions and treatment choices.

Living with fatigue

Fatigue is one of the commonest symptoms of MS and can have a major impact on daily life. Living With Fatigue was written in conjunction with an MS specialist occupational therapist and illustrated with comments by people with MS who know what it is like to live with the symptom.

Open Door

Quarterly newsletter that contains articles news and research relevant to people living with MS and their families.

Involving Family and Friends

Problems with attention can have subtle effects which wear away at communication and intimacy. You may have become aware of attention or concentration difficulties through not understanding information, or finding it hard to follow a TV soap. These difficulties will not be obvious to the people around you. Once they understand that this is part of your MS, they are likely to want to help. They can do this easily by:

Once you and your family are working together to overcome concentration problems, you can:


Cognitive difficulties

Concentration and attention difficulties are the most likely problems to show on clinical tests of cognition. The more demanding the task (the more processing resources required), the more likely that someone with MS will have trouble.

Further Reading

Costa SL, Genova HM, DeLuca J, Chiaravalloti ND. Information processing speed in multiple sclerosis: Past, present, and future. Mult Scler. 2016 May 1:1352458516645869


Several studies have investigated the effect of computer training programmes on attention and concentration and most have not demonstrated an improvement. However, one study identified which type of attention was weakest for each person (selective attention, divided attention, vigilance, or alertness). The weakest type of attention was then trained by computer programme. The type of attention that had been trained improved, whilst the untrained types of attention did not improve for the individuals participating.

Further Reading

Pedullà L, Brichetto G, Tacchino A, Vassallo C, Zaratin P, Battaglia MA, Bonzano L, Bove M. Adaptive vs. non-adaptive cognitive training by means of a personalized App: a randomized trial in people with multiple sclerosis. J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2016 Oct 4;13(1):88.

Pérez-Martín MY, González-Platas M, Eguía-Del Río P, Croissier-Elías C, Jiménez Sosa A. Efficacy of a short cognitive training program in patients with multiple sclerosis. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 Feb 3;13:245-252. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S124448.

Rilo O, Peña J, Ojeda N, Rodríguez-Antigüedad A, Mendibe-Bilbao M, Gómez-Gastiasoro A, DeLuca J, Chiaravalloti N, Ibarretxe-Bilbao N. Integrative group-based cognitive rehabilitation efficacy in multiple sclerosis: a randomized clinical trial. Disabil Rehabil. 2016 Dec 7:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2016.1250168.

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