Objectives: We investigated clinical, behavioural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) correlates of working memory load in relapse-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Methods: In total, 12 clinically isolated syndromes (CIS) patients at risk of MS, 38 relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), 22 secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) and 24 healthy controls (HC) performed an N-back fMRI task. Correlations between fMRI abnormalities and clinico-behavioural and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures were assessed. Results: Participants activated brain regions of the working memory network, especially in fronto-parietal lobes and cerebellum, and deactivated areas of the default mode network (DMN). During the N-back load contrast, compared to HC, the three groups of MS patients had a common pattern of decreased activation of the right superior parietal lobule, left inferior parietal lobule and left middle frontal gyrus. Areas specifically more active in CIS patients compared to the other study groups were found in the left medial superior frontal gyrus and right anterior cingulate cortex, whereas SPMS patients selectively activated the left parahippocampal gyrus and left superior temporal pole (STP). Worse accuracy and global cognitive scores correlated with increased STP activation. Conclusion: Load-dependent alterations of working memory network recruitment occur in MS. Frontal hyperactivation is maintained in CIS and lost in SPMS. Abnormal recruitment of DMN areas is related to worse cognitive and behavioural outcomes. © The Author(s), 2016.