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Kessler Foundation's Dr. Dobryakova awarded National MS Society grant to study fatigue

Dr. Ekaterina Dobryakova will apply $408,000 grant to explore factors associated with disabling fatigue among individuals with MS

Kessler Foundation


IMAGE: Dr. Dobryakova is a research scientist in TBI Research at Kessler Foundation, where she focuses on developing new ways to address cognitive issues in MS and brain injury. view more

Credit: Kessler Foundation

February 29, 2016. West Orange, NJ. Ekaterina Dobryakova, PhD, was awarded a three-year $408,000 grant by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to study the factors influencing fatigue in the MS population. Developing effective treatments for fatigue depends on identifying factors that contribute to this common and debilitating symptom. Dr. Dobryakova is a research scientist in Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, where she focuses on cognitive issues in MS and brain injury. Her study is titled, "Effect of Feedback Presentation on the Fronto?Striatal Network Activity and Fatigue in Individuals with MS."

This study will be the first to examine the influence of feedback presentation, a factor that may be involved in fatigue. Differentiating positive and negative feedback occurs in the brain's fronto-striatal network, and is mediated by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that has been shown to alleviate fatigue in traumatic brain injury, cancer, Parkinson's disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. Using feedback presentation - a non-pharmacological intervention - researchers will see whether brain activity associated with dopamine levels rises and the fatigue experienced by individuals with MS is alleviated.

"Individuals with MS and healthy participants will undergo a brain scan while performing a learning task with two feedback conditions (monetary and non-monetary feedback) and a no-feedback condition," Dr. Dobryakova described. "Training individuals to recognize the onset of fatigue and its impact on task performance will help us develop effective interventions," she explained. "One possibility is that by visualizing the rewards of positive feedback, individuals with MS can activate the relevant neural pathway in their brains and counter fatigue. Because this type of intervention relies entirely on internal cognitive mechanisms, the unwanted side effects of medications would be avoided."

This novel study will have an impact in the scientific community, according to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, and Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation. "Specifically, the results will provide missing evidence on the brain areas involved in cognitive fatigue," she noted, "as well as how their functioning is related to cognitive fatigue during task performance. Identifying an endogenous factor that can alleviate cognitive fatigue would be a revolutionary development in MS rehabilitation."


This research is funded by the National MS Society (RG-1501-02630).

About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, National MS Society, Consortium of MS Centers, the Patterson Trust, Biogen Idec, Hearst Foundation, the International Progressive MS Alliance, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP for Research & Training, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS and developed new treatments. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, cognitive reserve, emotional processing, employment and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, mobile devices, and virtual reality. The Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation is dedicated solely to rehabilitation research that addresses deficits in cognition and mobility that affect quality of life. Foundation scientists have faculty appointments at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

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

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