The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation have awarded a $410,000 grant to fund research based on a new method for treating cognitive dysfunction in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).
About 70% of progressive MS patients suffer from cognitive abnormalities that ultimately affect many aspects of their daily lives. Cognitive dysfunction in MS can affect learning, memory, attention, information processing speed, concentration, and problem-solving.
Health professionals often use methods of cognitive rehabilitation to treat those individuals. Those methods involve restorative techniques, which include learning and memory exercises, and compensatory techniques, which are designed to make up for weakened functions.
The research grant was awarded to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, of the Kessler Foundation, who will collaborate with 11 research centers in six countries over a period of four years.
The team will assess a mixed method of intervention involving cognitive rehabilitation and aerobic exercise in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in progressive MS patients. The researchers are planning to run a randomized, controlled trial involving 360 individuals over a 12-week period. The effectiveness of the treatment also will be assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging in a subset of 120 patients.
DeLuca, who is the senior vice president of research and training at the Kessler Foundation, expects “the combination of these two therapies will produce better outcomes than either one alone,” he said in a press release.
He said the study will use “a comprehensive patient-population sample, incorporating people of various origins and ethnicities. By documenting the beneficial effect this intervention has on individuals with progressive MS, we begin to lay the foundation for the development of a universal treatment for cognitive dysfunction in this population.”
Chiaravalloti, the director of Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research and Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, added: “Following treatment, we expect neuroimaging to show increased brain activity in regions responsible for memory, learning, and executive functioning, indicating a clear correlation between the intervention and these positive brain changes.”
The Kessler Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on the field of disability. The MS Society of Canada provides services to MS patients and their families, and funds research into MS and potential treatments, while the MS Scientific Research Foundation funds large, multi-center, collaborative studies in MS.