The National Multiple Sclerosis Society funds research projects.
- the study of working memory training in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)
- testing the idea that blocking an enzyme called sulfatase will increase the ability of immature oligodendrocyte precursor cells to mature and begin to repair myelin
Improving Cognitive Performance, Brain Function
Janet L. Shucard, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurology, is principal investigator on the research that will build off the findings of a pilot study of working memory training in MS and controls.
In the pilot study, a working memory training program and a perceptual processing speed training program were developed, which allowed participants to complete computer-based training at home.
Its findings suggest that working memory training and process speed training produce different but significant changes in cognitive performance and brain function.
Neuroscience-Driven Working Memory Training
Shucard, associate director of the Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurosciences in the Department of Neurology, says the aim now is to evaluate the effects of two targeted training programs on cognitive function in MS, a working memory training paradigm (visual-verbal n-back task) and a perceptual processing speed paradigm (visual search task).
The effects of these two training paradigms in comparison with a group that does not train (no-contact control group) will be assessed using pre- and post-test measures of specific cognitive functions, functional dense-electrode electrophysiology, conventional and unconventional structural MRI and functional MRI (fMRI).
“This neuroscience-driven approach to working memory training in MS will allow us to examine not only the behavioral/cognitive changes associated with training, but also training-related changes in brain structure as measured by MRI, and training-related changes in brain function as measured by both fMRI and dense-electrode electrophysiology,” Shucard says.
This approach will provide information about the efficacy of working memory/processing speed training in patients with MS, as well as about neural plasticity of distributed neural networks underlying working memory.
“The study will be the first to examine separately the effects of working memory and processing speed training in adult MS patients and it will be the only study to date to examine the effects of these training paradigms on cognitive performance and on a range of functional and structural neuroimaging measures, simultaneously,” Shucard notes.
Seeking to Prevent or Delay Deficits in Quality of Life
Because working memory and processing speed are primary cognitive deficits in MS, these specific training paradigms may be particularly useful for improving cognitive functioning in MS patients.
“The strengthening of these cognitive abilities may help to prevent or delay the impact that cognitive deficits have on quality of life, vocational status, and disease-related outcomes,” Shucard says.
|Read on: Research Projects Focus on Novel Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis – Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences – University at Buffalo|