Data_Sheet_1_Impaired Self-Other Distinction and Subcortical Gray-Matter Alterations Characterize Socio-Cognitive Disturbances in Multiple Sclerosis.docx

Introduction: Recent studies of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) have revealed disturbances in distinct components of social cognition, such as impaired mentalizing and empathy. The present study investigated this socio-cognitive profile in MS patients in more detail, by examining their performance on tasks measuring more fundamental components of social cognition and any associated disruptions to gray-matter volume (GMV).

Methods: We compared 43 patients with relapse-remitting MS with 43 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) on clinical characteristics (depression, fatigue), cognitive processing speed, and three aspects of low-level social cognition; specifically, imitative tendencies, visual perspective taking, and emotion recognition. Using voxel-based morphometry, we then explored relationships between GMV and these clinical and behavioral measures.

Results: Patients exhibited significantly slower processing speed, poorer perspective taking, and less imitation compared with HCs. These impairments were related to reduced GMV throughout the putamen, thalami, and anterior insula, predominantly in the left hemisphere. Surprisingly, differences between the groups in emotion recognition were not significant.

Conclusion: Less imitation and poorer perspective taking indicate a cognitive self-bias when faced with conflicting self- and other-representations. This suggests that impaired self-other distinction, and an associated subcortical pattern of GM atrophy, might underlie the socio-cognitive disturbances observed in MS.