Social mind and long-lasting disease: Focus on affective and cognitive theory of mind in multiple sclerosis

Sara Isernia, Francesca Baglio, Alessia d'Arma, Elisabetta Groppo, Antonella Marchetti, Davide Massaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of social cognition, including theory of mind (ToM), in affecting quality of life (QoL) along the course of diseases has been reported. This is a considerable aspect in chronic pathologies, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), in which supporting and maintaining QoL is of crucial importance. We aimed to investigate the relation between ToM, clinical variables and neuropsychological profile in a cohort of adults with long lasting disease, such as different clinical MS phenotypes (Relapsing Remitting -RR- versus Progressive -Pr). In particular, our study focuses on (1) how (affective and cognitive) ToM impairment occurs in different phenotypes, (2) whether MS ToM impairment is secondary to or independent from cognitive deficit and (3) whether ToM deficit impacts QoL. 42 adults with MS (18 M: 24 F, 52.38 ± 10.31 mean age, 21.24 ± 10.94 mean disease duration, 26 RR and 16 Pr) and 26 matched healthy controls (HC) (7 M: 19 F, 51.35 ± 12.42 mean age) were screened with a neuropsychological and ToM battery, assessing both affective and cognitive components. We found statistically significant groups differences in cognitive but not affective ToM, with a lower performance in PrMS than those with a RRMS disease course. Also, significant predictive effects of neuropsychological tests on ToM were identified in MS group. Finally, MS people with different level of affective ToM differed significantly in QoL. ToM deficit in moderately disabled people with MS involves cognitive but not affective ToM components with implications on QoL. It also appears to be related to cognitive performance. As neurological and neurocognitive profiles influence mentalizing in MS, ToM evaluation should be considered for inclusion in clinical screening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number218
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - Feb 7 2019


  • Cognitive functions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Quality of life
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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