West Orange, NJ. November 1, 2013. A research study headed by Victoria Leavitt, Ph.D. and James Sumowski, Ph.D., of Kessler Foundation, provides the first evidence for beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on brain and memory in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The article, "Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume and improves memory in multiple sclerosis: Preliminary findings," was released as an epub ahead of print on October 4 by Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition. The study was funded by Kessler Foundation.
Hippocampal atrophy seen in MS is linked to the memory deficits that affect approximately 50% of individuals with MS. Despite the prevalence of this disabling symptom, there are no effective pharmacological or behavioral treatments. "Aerobic exercise may be the first effective treatment for MS patients with memory problems," noted Dr. Leavitt, research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation. "Moreover, aerobic exercise has the advantages of being readily available, low cost, self-administered, and lacking in side effects." No beneficial effects were seen with non-aerobic exercise. Dr. Leavitt noted that the positive effects of aerobic exercise were specific to memory; other cognitive functions such as executive functioning and processing speed were unaffected.
The study's participants were two MS patients with memory deficits who were randomized to non-aerobic (stretching) and aerobic (stationary cycling) conditions. Baseline and follow-up measurements were recorded before and after the treatment protocol of 30-minute exercise sessions 3 times per week for 3 months. Data were collected by high-resolution MRI (neuroanatomical volumes), fMRI (functional connectivity), and memory assessment. Aerobic exercise resulted in a 16.5% increase in hippocampal volume, a 53.7% increase in memory, and increased hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity. Non-aerobic exercise resulted in minimal change in hippocampal volume and no changes in memory or functional connectivity.
"These findings clearly warrant large-scale clinical trials of aerobic exercise for the treatment of memory deficits in the MS population," said James Sumowski,, Ph.D., research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation.
Co-authors are Christopher Cirnigliaro, M.S., of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and James J. Peters VA Medical Center; Amanda Faraq, M.D. and Monifa Brooks, M.D., of Kessler Institute and Jill M. Wecht, Ed.D., of James J. Peters VA Medical Center. From Kessler Foundation: Amanda Cohen, Glenn Wylie, D.Phil., associate director of Neuroscience Research and the Center for Neuroimaging Research @ Kessler Foundation, Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, John DeLuca, Ph.D., vice president for Research & Training, and James F. Sumowski, Ph.D., research scientist. Kessler scientists and clinicians have faculty appointments at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Leavitt VM, Wylie G, Chiaravalloti ND, et al. Warmer outdoor temperature is associated with task-related increased BOLD activation in patients with multiple sclerosis. Brain Imaging Behav. 2013 Oct 23. [Epub ahead of print].
Sumowski JF, Rocca MA, Leavitt VM, et al. Brain reserve and cognitive reserve in multiple sclerosis: what you've got and how you use it. Neurology. 2013 Jun 11;80(24):2186-93.
Sumowski JF, Leavitt VM. Cognitive reserve in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2013 Aug;19(9):1122-7.
About MS Research at Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National MS Society, NJ Commission of Brain Injury Research, Consortium of MS Centers, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca. Ph.D., and Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, emotional processing and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, iPADs, and virtual reality. Among recent findings are the benefits of cognitive reserve; correlation between cognitive performance and outdoor temperatures; the efficacy of short-term cognitive rehabilitation using modified story technique; and the correlation between memory improvement and cerebral activation on fMRI.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.
Carolann Murphy, PA