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Exercise helps protect brain of multiple sclerosis patients
Date:2/18/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio Highly fit multiple sclerosis patients perform significantly better on tests of cognitive function than similar less-fit patients, a new study shows.

In addition, MRI scans of the patients showed that the fitter MS patients showed less damage in parts of the brain that show deterioration as a result of MS, as well as a greater volume of vital gray matter.

"We found that aerobic fitness has a protective effect on parts of the brain that are most affected by multiple sclerosis," said Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

"As a result, these fitter patients actually show better performance on tasks that measure processing speed."

The study, done with colleagues Robert Motl and Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois and Erin Snook of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, appears online in the journal Brain Research and will be published in a future print edition.

The study involved 21 women diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. They were compared with 15 age- and education-matched healthy female controls. The study assessed fitness, cognitive function, and structural changes in all participants.

In order to measure fitness levels, the participants underwent a VO2 max test, in which they rode a stationary bicycle until they felt exhausted. During the test, they breathed into a mask which measured their oxygen consumption.

All the women also took a variety of tests designed to evaluate cognitive functions, such as processing speed and selective attention. In one test, for example, participants had to write down in one minute as many words as they could think of that began with the letter "F." MS patients generally perform poorly on these tests compared to healthy people.

The third analysis involved MRIs of the participants, revealing any damage to their brains.

As expected, the MS patien
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Contact: Ruchika Shaurya Prakash
Prakash.30@osu.edu
614-292-8462
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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