Exercise May Protect Brain Of MS Patients

A recent study shows that highly fit patients with MS perform better on tests involving cognitive function as compared to lesser fit patients. The said study, which was conducted by researchers from the Ohio State University as well as the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts can be seen at the online journal Brain Research.

According to Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, "We found that aerobic fitness has a protective effect on parts of the brain that are most affected by multiple sclerosis". The study showed that MRI scans of the fitter patients with MS also showed less damage on parts of the brain usually affected by MS. The MRI scans also shows a greater volume of vital gray matter for the fitter patients. "As a result, these fitter patients actually show better performance on tasks that measure processing speed," added Prof. Prakash.

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

As was expected, the MS patients performed much worse than those on the healthy control group. But what the researchers found out is that there were significant changes between the more aerobically fir MS patients compared to those who are less fit. One of such instances involved lesions in the Central Nervous System of the MS patients.

"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. This is significant and can help explain why the higher-fit patients did better on tests of brain functioning," says Prof. Prakash.

The researchers also noted that exercise helps promote the development of nerve growth factors in MS patients, proteins which are vital to the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain.

Source: Ohio State University. "Exercise Helps Protect Brain of Multiple Sclerosis Patients, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily 20 February 2010. 10 March 2010