John DeLuca, PhD, senior vice president for Research and Training at Kessler Foundation, has received a $95,000 sub-award from EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in the U.S. and Canada. The award funds a collaborative study with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) titled “Effects of Walking Exercise Training on Learning and Memory Outcomes in Multiple Sclerosis.”
Learning and memory impairments are prevalent, disabling, and poorly-managed among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Exercise training may be an effective behavioral approach for managing MS-related cognitive dysfunction. This randomized controlled trial examines the effects of treadmill walking exercise training on learning and memory performance, hippocampal volume, and hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity in people with MS.
“Aerobic exercise may improve cognitive deficits in people with MS through neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by generating new neural connections throughout life,” remarked Dr. DeLuca. “We predict that improvements in learning and memory and cardiorespiratory fitness will be associated with increased hippocampal volume and resting-state functional connectivity. The results of this research will lay the groundwork for physical rehabilitation interventions that improve cognitive function in people with MS.”
UAB researchers plan to enroll 40 people with MS who demonstrate objective learning and memory impairments. Baseline and follow-up MRI data will be collected by UAB researchers and analyzed by Kessler Foundation researchers.
“This study is the first to examine two different exercise programs as potential treatments for MS-related learning-and-memory impairment,” remarked Brian Sandroff, PhD, principal investigator of the study, and assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions. “Through this rigorous study, we anticipate we will provide important evidence for the potential role of exercise training for managing learning and memory problems in MS,” he summarized.