People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who complete training through a method called the modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT) show a decrease in brain activity after training, which could indicate more efficient brain processing, a recent study shows.
Cognitive impairment, such as difficulty remembering, is a common symptom of MS. The mSMT is a memory rehabilitation program designed to help cognitively impaired people learn new information. It involves using visualization and storytelling strategies to help improve memory and learning.
The MEMREHAB clinical trial (NCT00166283) tested the use of mSMT in people with MS. Previously published results from the trial showed that mSMT provided learning and memory benefits, compared with a placebo.
Researchers expected that these improvements in learning and memory would be accompanied by physical changes within the brain. However, whether and how mSMT affects the brain is not clear, and likely varies depending on factors such as who is being studied and the type of information being learned, among others.
To look into this, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures blood flow in the brain, to examine brain activity in 16 people with MS who participated in the MEMREHAB trial.
Six of the participants underwent mSMT, while the remaining 10 received placebo training. The two groups were demographically similar, with no significant differences in ambulation, time since MS diagnosis, or age.
All were asked to memorize information using the relevant memory techniques. The information was presented within a meaningful context, such as a paragraph. Most other studies on how mSMT affects the brain have had participants memorize lists.
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