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Kessler Foundation Reports Greater Brain Activation After Cognitive Rehabilitation For MS

January 18, 2012

Changes go beyond behavioral, affecting how brain processes information

Neuroscientists at Kessler Foundation have documented increased cerebral activation in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) following memory retraining using the modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT).  This is the first study to demonstrate that behavioral interventions can have a positive effect on brain function in people with cognitive disability caused by MS, an important step in validating the clinical utility of cognitive rehabilitation. According to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, “This demonstrates that an effective cognitive rehabilitation protocol can lead to changes in the way the brain is actually processing information.”  Dr. Chiaravalloti  is lead author of the article, which was published online by the Journal of Neurology on January 12.

Cognitive deficits are common in MS, though few studies have examined the efficacy of memory retraining in this population. Previous research conducted at Kessler Foundation demonstrated that mSMT improves new learning and memory in MS.

The new study utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to document brain activation patterns before and after memory retraining.  In the double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial, 16 individuals were randomly assigned to treatment (n = 8) or placebo (n = 8) groups. Each underwent 10 memory retraining sessions (twice weekly for 5 weeks). After treatment, greater activation was evident on fMRI in the treatment group during performance of a memory task; no change was seen in the placebo group. Increased activation was associated with improved memory performance.  These benefits may warrant third-party reimbursement for this intervention in selected patients.

The article, Increased cerebral activation after behavioral treatment for memory deficits in MS, DOI: 10.1007/s00415-011-6353-x appeared online in the Journal of Neurology on January 12, 2012.  Authors are  Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, Glenn Wylie, DPhil, Victoria Leavitt, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, all of Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ. The authors also have faculty appointments with UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ.

Research funded by National Institutes of Health grants RO1 HD045798 & HD45798-S, National MS Society and Kessler Foundation.

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