Study Seeks to Better Understand How MS Affects Memory

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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A new research project will seek to better understand the biological processes that drive memory problems in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), as a better understanding of these processes may open new avenues for intervention.

The four-year study is titled “Neuroimaging of Hippocampally Mediated Memory Dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis,” and received funding totaling $651,997 from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Its principal investigator is Joshua Sandry, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Montclair State University. Also collaborating on the study is Ekaterina Dobryakova, PhD, a research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation. She will oversee the clinical project, including advanced neuroimaging studies conducted at the Rocco Ortenzio Center for Neuroimaging at Kessler Foundation.

“To our knowledge, this is the first investigation to utilize a strong translational approach to begin to pinpoint the interrelationship of working memory, brain functioning, and long-term memory problems in MS,” Dobryakova said in a press release.

“This cutting-edge research may provide a strong foundation to our understanding of memory loss, and lead to effective interventions for restoring lost function,” Dobryakova added.

Cognitive disability, including memory problems, are a common symptom of MS that can substantially impact a person’s quality of life.

However, relatively little is known about the exact biological processes that cause cognitive problems, like impaired memory, in people with MS. Because these processes are not very well understood, it is difficult to design therapies or interventions that aim to halt or reverse those biological processes and, by extension, ease cognitive symptoms.

The new study aims to translate research from cognitive neuroscience to identify which cognitive and brain processes are affected by MS.

Specifically, researchers will investigate the relationship between changes in working memory (temporary, short-term) and structural changes in the hippocampus (a region of the brain with a well-established role in memory). The goal is to understand how these changes may contribute to the memory problems that affect people with MS.

This year, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has funded several projects, including an investment of more than $16 million to support 50 new multi-year research studies and training fellowships addressing MS.

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