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Warm Weather May Cloud Thinking in MS Patients
Date:2/17/2011

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- People with multiple sclerosis may have more problems remembering, learning and processing information in warm weather than in cooler months, a small study suggests.

Researchers at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, N.J., found that patients with MS performed 70 percent better on tests involving thinking, or cognitive functioning, on cooler days than they did at warmer times of the year.

"These findings are important because in many cases, cognitive changes take a greater psychological toll on MS patients than changes in motor symptoms do," said the study's lead author, Victoria Leavitt, a neuropsychologist and post-doctoral fellow at the Kessler Foundation Research Center.

"People who have MS often leave the workforce before their motor symptoms emerge, and the reason they'll often give is fatigue," said Leavitt. "But it's possible that it may be related to these changes in cognition, which are requiring them to use their brains in a different way."

The findings, released Feb. 17, are scheduled to be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Honolulu.

For the study, 40 people with MS and 40 without the nervous system disease took the same cognitive tests at different times throughout the calendar year. The researchers recorded the temperature on each day that the patients were tested. While the MS patients performed better on these tests on cooler days, there was no difference in the test results of the healthy controls.

The reason why temperature changes might affect MS patients' thinking isn't known, but Leavitt said one possible explanation is that the underlying mechanisms that regulate the body's reaction to heat may work less effectively in people with MS.

Leavitt said her work was a direct result of a 2010 study by scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, whi
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