A researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing will help to lead a national effort into how multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the cognitive skills of children.
Yolanda Harris is the UAB principal investigator in a study assessing how MS impacts the way children make decisions. Titled “Cognition and Neurodevelopmental Influence (CANDI) study,” it will examine children and adolescents with MS between the ages of 10 and 16.
The study, which started enrolling patients in September 2017, and is funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Network of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Centers. To lead UAB’s effort, Harris received a $56,695 grant.
CANDI’s overall goal is to identify changes in learning and thinking early to identify children at risk of future decline. According to the National MS Society, this is the most detailed sample to date leveraging the U.S. Network of Pediatric MS Centers to collect a large, nationally representative and geographically diverse sample of children with MS. Information for those interested in taking part can be found here.
Participants will be measured against adult MS patients and children without MS. Evaluations of cognitive functioning will be made using a computer-based program called Cogstate, which measures cognitive processing speed or the rate at which a person processes information.
CANDI will also assess measures of academic work, including grades, test scores, and teacher assessments, to assess the disease’s the real-world impact.
All measurements are to be repeated two years after enrollment to assess how cognitive processing speed and other areas might have changed in these children and teenagers.
The study aims to provide fresh insights into treating pediatric MS and possibly for necessary support to succeed at school.
“This study is the first of its kind, looking at how pediatric-onset MS affects cognition in children,” Harris said in a UAB news story. “The goal is to identify what may be the challenges for these children and use that information to develop interventions to help improve their cognitive skills as they grow older.”
Harris will conduct the research at the UAB Center for Pediatric Onset Demyelinating Disease at Children’s Hospital. UAB is one of 12 core clinical centers in the United States participating in the study.