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Study Suggests Exercise May Help Memory of Fibromyalgia Patients
Date:11/13/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Fibromyalgia patients who stopped taking medication and then exercised regularly for six weeks reported improved memory function and less pain, according to a small, new study.

While the finding is encouraging, it does not suggest a potential change in clinical care for fibromyalgia patients, the study authors stressed.

Senior author Dr. Brian Walitt, director of the Fibromyalgia Evaluation and Research Center at Georgetown University Medical Center, is scheduled to present the findings Sunday with co-researcher, Manish Khatiwada, at the Society of Neuroscience annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder marked by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep and cognitive problems. It has no apparent cause and the pain is real, Walitt said, and likely originates from the central nervous system. It typically affects women more than men.

Exercise has long been recommended to fibromyalgia patients, and some find it improves their sense of well-being. "This is a first look at understanding how exercise alters memory performance," Walitt said of the study.

For the trial, nine women received a baseline brain image called a functional MRI test. They were also given tests to assess their working memory and asked about their well-being and pain while on medication. The memory tests involved reading back a sequence of letters at various times after learning them.

Next, the women stopped their medication for a six-week ''washout'' period. Then they had a second round of fMRIs and tests. Then they started a six-week supervised aerobic exercise program, consisting of three 30-minute sessions a week.

"When we took people off the medicine, they performed worse on the tests," Walitt said. But, he added, "As they stayed off the medications for a period of time and exercised, their cognitive performance returned to normal level
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