University at Buffalo researchers are working on ways to improve multiple sclerosis patients’ cognitive function and to repair damage to the mylein coating that protects nerve cells.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society awarded the researchers more than $1.1 million to conduct the studies.
One, “The Effects of Working Memory Training on Brain Function, Structure, and Cognition in MS,” will look at whether two neuroscience-based training programs can improve MS patients’ cognitive function. The MS society provided $609,000 for the three-year project.
The training programs will focus on improving patients’ working memory and processing speed. Both are impaired in people with MS.
Working memory is short-term process important to reasoning and decision-making. Processing speed is the time the brain needs to process information and formulate a response.
Researchers will compare the cognitive function of those who receive the training with that of controls who do not. One cognitive function yardstick will be changes in patients’ brain structure that show up on magnetic resonance imaging scans.
Another yardstick will be changes in brain function. The team will use both MRI scans and electrophysiology for this measurement. Electrophysiology is a technique that assesses brain activity.
The project grew out of a pilot study in which MS patients and controls completed a computer-based working memory program and a perceptual processing speed training program. The findings suggested that the training led to significant changes in cognitive performance and brain function.
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