Active Mental Lifestyle And MS

A recent study has shown that having an active mental lifestyle might help protect people with multiple sclerosis against the memory and learning problems associated with the disease. The said study was conducted by the researchers at the Kessler Foundation Research Center in West Orange , New Jersey. The results were published on the June 2010 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

According to James Sumowski, PhD and author of the study, “Many people with MS struggle with learning and memory problems. This study shows that a mentally active lifestyle might reduce the harmful effects of brain damage on learning and memory. That is, learning and memory ability remained quite good in people with enriching lifestyles, even if they had a lot of brain damage (brain atrophy on brain scans). In contrast, persons with lesser mentally active lifestyles were more likely to suffer learning and memory problems, even at milder levels of brain damage.”

The said study involved 44 patients, with an average age of 45 and has had MS for an average of 11 years. The study included measuring lifetime enrichment with word knowledge acquired through mental activities that involve reading and education.

The study found out that those participants who led a mentally active lifestyle got good scores on learning and memory tests even when they showed higher levels of brain damage as a result of MS.

An example of the test given involve verbal learning and memory where participants were given about 15 tries to learn a list of 10 words. They were then asked to recall the words from the list after 30 minutes. The results showed that among those who follow a mental active lifestyle, learning and recall was somewhat similar to those with lower as well as higher amounts of brain damage.

On the other hand, participants with less active mental lifestyles showed lower learning and recall ability after 30 minutes among those showing higher amounts of brain damage as compared to those with lower levels of brain damage.

“The findings suggest that enriching activities may build a person’s ‘cognitive reserve,’ which can be thought of as a buffer against disease-related memory impairment. Differences in cognitive reserve among persons with MS may explain why some persons suffer memory problems early in the disease, while others do not develop memory problems until much later, if at all,” added Sumowski.


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