WEDNESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- When researcher David Mohr began working with people with multiple sclerosis about 20 years ago, patients would tell him that stress made their disease worse. At the time, most physicians didn't believe there was a connection, he said.
But a study published online July 11 in Neurology adds to growing evidence that suggests a link between stress and flare-ups of the neurological disease. The research shows that participating in weekly stress management therapy prevented the development of new brain lesions, indicators of the impact of the disease in the brain. But not long after the treatment stopped, new brain lesions appeared.
"It's clear that stress plays an important role in multiple sclerosis, and therapy may be a useful additional treatment, along with drug therapy," said Mohr, author of the study and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, is caused by damage to the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States have the disease.
The research involved 121 people with MS who were randomly assigned to either receive stress management therapy or no such therapy. Those in the treatment group participated in 16 sessions of 50 minutes each over 24 weeks, with follow-up six months later.
More than three-quarters of the participants were women, who have a higher incidence of MS, and their average age was 43.
Those in the therapy group were taught by licensed psychologists in private sessions how to better anticipate stressful events that could come up in the course of daily life, such as hectic times at work, or a visit from an unwelcome family member, said
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