Tips and Tricks

Memory problems are very commonly reported by people with MS. They say things like “I get so frustrated that I can’t remember”. However, most people with MS do not experience severe memory problems and there are many strategies that seem to help. In particular, prompts and reminders can work very well.

Other Important Influences

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

Professional Help

Because memory is a very wide-ranging skill and information is remembered in different ways, assessing exactly where one person’s weakness lies can take time. For example, it may be that visual information (pictures, drawings, photos) is easier to register and remember than verbal information (spoken words, read words). If so, then the therapy strategies can concentrate on pictures, either on paper or in your mind. It may be that a memory aid will be helpful to you, and the health professional can help with identifying which aid is appropriate and how much help (if any) you will need to use it.

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.

Other Resources

Memory: how to focus better and avoid distractions with 10 tips

William D.

How to Use Advanced Strategies & Techniques to Remember More, Learn More, Accelerate Your Brain Power & How to Avoid Memory Deficit in Later Life

Stirling De Cruz-Coleridge (2017)

Memory: Simple, Easy, and Fun Ways to Improve Memory

John Parker (2011)

Memory: How to Develop, Train, and Use It

William Walker Atkinson (2016)

The Memory Book: how to remember anything you want

Tony Buzan (2009)


Test and improve your memory

Encyclopaedia Britannica London;Focus Multimedia Ltd;2004 ASIN: B0006398AE


How to improve your memory and concentration

Psychology Today

How to improve your memory instantly

Psychology Today

The Psychologist - How to improve your memory

Morris PE, Fritz CO The Psychologist. 2006;19: 608-611.

Article from The Psychologist journal in which authors detail powerful and robust techniques using the scientific evidence available todate.

Involving Family and Friends

If you are experiencing lapses of memory, the people around you may not have noticed. In that case, your problems must be mild. You may still want to share your experiences with them. You can let them know what strategies you are using. You may not need any direct help from them, but you may want their understanding.

If the people around you have noticed your memory lapses, your memory problems may be more significant. However, it is unlikely that your family and friends will have linked these memory problems to your MS. Once you let them know that you want to discuss your memory problems with them, they are likely to be interested and want to help. This may mean that of something important is coming up, they can either remind you themselves, or leave written prompts.


Memory difficulties are the most commonly reported cognitive difficulties by people with MS. Laboratory studies have shown that groups of people with MS tend to be less efficient at memory tasks than people without MS. This includes remembering lists and remembering words that were paired with another word. Sometimes recognising words that have been seen before is not as hard as remembering words without any cue. There is evidence that memory problems in MS are secondary to a primary slowing of processing speed.

There is quite a lot of evidence that how information is presented to people with MS can make a big difference to how ell they are able to remember it. If people with MS organise and “think” about the information as it is presented (“processing” and “encoding”), they do better at remembering. Reducing the information presented to essentials and removing non-essential items also helps. Cues and prompts are most helpful when the person with MS has thought of them themselves, rather than someone else thinking them up on their behalf.

Cognitive difficulties

Further Reading

Adler G, Lembach Y. Memory and selective attention in multiple sclerosis: cross-sectional computer-based assessment in a large outpatient sample. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2015 Aug;265(5):439-43.

Deluca J, Leavitt VM, Chiaravalloti N, Wylie G. Memory impairment in multiple sclerosis is due to a core deficit in initial learning. J Neurol. 2013 Oct;260(10):2491-6.


The simple approach of retrieval practise is effective for many people with MS. Some studies have investigated how computerised packages can improve memory in MS. However, one programme which adapted to each person’s starting memory level, gave feedback and adapted to each person’s rate of progress did produce improvement in memory function. Teaching people with MS to incorporate information to be remembered into a story (and thus use context and imagery) did improve the memory of those with more marked memory difficulties.

Further Reading

Sumowski JF, Leavitt VM, Cohen A, Paxton J, Chiaravalloti ND, DeLuca J. Retrieval practice is a robust memory aid for memory-impaired patients with MS. Mult Scler. 2013 Dec;19(14):1943-6.

Goverover Y, Chiaravalloti N, DeLuca J. Self-generation to improve learning and memory of functional activities in persons with multiple sclerosis: meal preparation and managing finances. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2008;89:1514-21.

Ernst A, Blanc F, De Seze J, Manning L. Using mental visual imagery to improve autobiographical memory and episodic future thinking in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients: A randomised-controlled trial study. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2015;33(5):621-38.

Chiaravalloti ND, Moore NB, Nikelshpur OM, DeLuca J. An RCT to treat learning impairment in multiple sclerosis: The MEMREHAB trial. Neurology. 2013 Dec 10;81(24):2066-72.

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