Cognitive dysfunction is common in multiple sclerosis (MS). Different factors may moderate the degree of cognitive deficit. The aim of the present study was to distinguish different mechanisms for cognitive reserve in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). The effects of clinical variables (physical disability, depression), premorbid intelligence (years of education, vocabulary knowledge), visual event-related potential measures (P300) and response time (RT) were studied in RRMS patients (n=71) and healthy subjects (n=89). Patients with high P300 amplitude and short RT had better cognitive performance. This effect was significantly weaker in controls. High P300 and short RT may be physiological markers of a cognitive reserve in RRMS. In contrast, the association between cognitive scores and premorbid intelligence was similar in patients and in control subjects. The effects of physiological reserve and clinical variables were studied in a hierarchical linear regression model of cognitive performance in RRMS. P300 amplitude and RT explained a considerable amount of variance in global cognitive performance (34%, p<0.001). The effects of P300 and RT were not moderated by premorbid intelligence. Physical disability and depression added significantly to explained variance, and the final model accounted for 44% (p<0.001) of the variation. We conclude that physiological reserve is the strongest moderator of cognitive impairment in RRMS.