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New ways to manage cognitive symptoms in MS

Caitlin Astbury

We know around half of all people with MS experience problems with cognitive processes, like decision-making, memory and concentration. And these can have a big impact on day-to-day life.

Researchers are working hard to understand more about how we can help people to manage cognitive changes in MS.

Cognitive rehabilitation can help in MS

Finding treatments for cognitive problems in MS is one of our top 10 research priorities. Cognitive rehabilitation is a form of treatment that could help people with MS manage their cognitive symptoms.

The Cognitive Rehabilitation for Attention and Memory in MS (CRAMMS) trial aimed to find out whether a programme of group-based therapy sessions could help people with MS with their cognitive symptoms.

Although the results showed no long-term effect on people’s quality of life, there was a small improvement in quality of life after 6 months. People also reported a reduction in memory problems and an improvement in mood after 6 and 12 months. We need to do more research to find out how to maintain these benefits over time.

Translating research into practise

As part of the CRAMMS trial, we're funding research to understand more about how research into cognition can be translated into practice. Researchers have been looking at how the results of trials are currently reported, and will highlight ways that they could be improved.

They’ll also be comparing the CRAMMS programme on paper to how the sessions actually went in real life, and talking to healthcare professions about how these therapies can actually make it to the clinic.

Read more about the CRAMMS trial on the University of Nottingham’s website

Measuring cognitive changes to measure treatment effectiveness

As well as diagnosing and managing cognitive symptoms, it’s also important to accurately measure cognitive changes to track how well a treatment is working.

We funded Dr Robert Dineen at the University of Nottingham to do exactly that.

There’s a theory that cognitive symptoms in MS occur when different brain areas get disconnected from each other. This can happen when myelin is damaged and lesions form.

Using MRI to model the brain

Using a technique called ‘Graph Theory’, the team at the University of Nottingham have been able to use MRI to model the brain and look at the connectivity between the different regions. From this, they can see how changes in connectivity correlate with changes to someone’s cognitive abilities.

The next step is to try out this model in clinical trials for treatments for cognitive symptoms. If it works, it could help develop and test more treatments, more effectively. And bring us another step closer to our goal of helping people live their lives free from the effects of MS.

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