Exercise Helps Protect Brain Of Multiple Sclerosis Patients

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Exercise Helps Protect Brain Of Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Postby thumbsup » Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:41 am

Have you read about this,

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 patients did much worse than the healthy controls on the tests of brain functioning, and showed more deterioration in their brains as revealed through the MRIs.

But what was interesting, Prakash said, was the significant differences between the more aerobically fit MS patients and those who were less fit.

Take, for instance, lesions, which are the characteristic feature of MS. Lesions are areas of inflammation in the central nervous system in which neurons have been stripped of myelin, an insulating protein.

"Physically fit MS patients had fewer lesions compared to those who weren't as fit and the lesions they did have tended to be smaller," Prakash said. "This is significant and can help explain why the higher-fit patients did better on tests of brain functioning."

Aerobic fitness was also associated with less-damaged brain tissue in MS patients, both the gray matter and white matter.

Gray matter is the cell bodies in the brain tissue, while white matter is the fibers that connect the various gray matter areas. you can read the full report at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/179659.php
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Postby eric593 » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:24 am

And could the highly fit MSer's be more cognitively "fit" because they have less brain damage due to MS, which not only enables them to continue to exercise, but also would result in better cognitive function.

It seems to me that it would be more understandable that someone with more brain damage which caused cognitive decline would also be more physically affected which would affect their fitness level.

I don't think the results suggest that exercise helps prevent cognitive decline. I think it suggests that cognitive decline goes hand in hand with physical limitations which cause physical decline - MS is an equal opportunity disease that tends to not only affect us physically as it worsens, but also cognitively.
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Postby Wonderfulworld » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:04 am

I agree with you Eric.
I think there have been many studies pointing at traits and behaviour of MS'ers and I find a chicken/egg situation developing. As you say, perhaps those with less damaged brains are still in a position to exercise vs. those who have greater lesion load and physical damage.
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