Background: Load-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) abnormalities of brain activity during performance of attention tasks have been described in definite multiple sclerosis (MS). No data are available in clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) suggestive of MS. Objectives:The objective of this research is to evaluate in CIS patients the fMRI pattern of brain activation during an attention task and to explore the effect of increasing task load demand on neurofunctional modifications. Methods: Twenty-seven untreated CIS patients and 32 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) underwent fMRI while performing the Variable Attentional Control (VAC) task, a cognitive paradigm requiring increasing levels of attentional control processing. Random-effects models were used for statistical analyses of fMRI data. Results: CIS patients had reduced accuracy and greater reaction time at the VAC task compared with HCs (p=0.007). On blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD)-fMRI, CIS patients had greater activity in the right parietal cortex (p=0.0004) compared with HCs. Furthermore, CIS patients had greater activity at the lower (p=0.05) and reduced activity at the greater (p=0.04) level of attentional control demand in the left putamen, compared with HCs. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the failure of attentional control processing in CIS. The load-related fMRI dysfunction of the putamen supports the role of basal ganglia in the failure of attention observed at the earliest stage of MS.
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