Brain training or ‘cognitive rehabilitation’ may have the potential to improve brain function in people with MS, suggest the authors of a new small-scale study.1
A substantial proportion of people with MS experience dips in brain function, including difficulties with processing information quickly, concentration and working memory, in the early stages of the disease. Brain training – known as cognitive rehabilitation – has emerged as a potential method to preserve or enhance brain function in people with MS, but evidence for this is currently limited. Dr Campbell and colleagues sought to investigate the benefits of cognitive rehabilitation by conducting a randomized controlled trial – one of the most robust ways of generating evidence.
By randomly assigning 38 people with MS to do either a brain training regimen or no brain training, the investigators were able to show that 45 minutes of home-based, computerized cognitive rehabilitation three times a week for 6 weeks resulted in significant improvements in information processing speed. Interestingly, 6 weeks after finishing cognitive rehabilitation, this improvement was not maintained.
The authors concluded that cognitive rehabilitation may help to improve brain function, but that maintenance of such an improvement could require a long-term brain training programme. This small study contributes to a growing body of evidence that suggests that people with MS should keep their brains as active as possible.2 For more ways to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle, read our short guide.
1. Campbell J, Langdon D, Cercignani M, et al. A Randomised Controlled Trial of Efficacy of Cognitive Rehabilitation in Multiple Sclerosis: A Cognitive, Behavioural, and MRI Study. Neural Plast 2016; doi:10.1155/2016/4292585.
2. Giovannoni G, Butzkueven H, Dhib-Jalbut S et al. Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016;9 Suppl 1:S5–S48.