The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) has awarded a grant to Kessler Foundation researchers, supporting a pilot study into how well different low-risk exercise regimens ease multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and improve patients’ well-being.
The grant recipients are John DeLuca, PhD, senior vice president for research and training, and Helen Genova, PhD, assistant director of the foundation’s Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research.
DeLuca has been involved in neuropsychology and rehabilitation research for more than 30 years in a variety of clinical populations, including MS. Genova’s focus of study is cognitive issues, using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods, including social cognition, emotional processing and cognitive fatigue.
Rosalia Dacosta Aguayo, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Kessler Foundation, will help to conduct the study.
People with MS experience a range of disabling physical and mental symptoms, including muscle weakness and stiffness (spasticity), difficulty walking, balance problems, heat sensitivity, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and depression.
Studies have indicated that exercise training is beneficial for their muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and ambulatory performance, and may also ease fatigue, gait and balance problems, and improve their quality of life.
Although evidence is still preliminary, exercise is thought to affect inflammation, neurodegeneration, and structures in the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal cord), but many patients are reluctant to exercise as MS symptoms can make it hard to engage in regular physical activity.
Different types of exercise offer different benefits, but few studies have addressed them in the context of MS. In particular, the effects of exercise on depression and cognition have not been thoroughly studied.
Kessler researchers will look at different types of exercise regimens — from aquatic exercises to stretching — and their impact on the full range of participants’ symptoms to evaluate their potential for improving patients’ functional abilities and well-being.
“We will measure the effects of exercise on cognition, fatigue, physical functioning, and overall wellness and quality of life,” Genova said in a press release.
“Finding benefits across these multiple realms would focus attention on exercise regimens as low-risk noninvasive interventions that may improve the lives of individuals with MS,” Genova added.
Besides this upcoming study, the Kessler Foundation has a number of ongoing research projects in MS, exploring ways of managing the cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms of the disease.
The grant amount awarded by CMSC was not disclosed.