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fMRI Detects Brain Changes in MS Patients Following Cognitive Rehabilitation

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated changes in brain function and cognitive performance in patients with relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis following a cognitive rehabilitation program.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) demonstrated changes in brain function and cognitive performance in patients with relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) after they participated in a cognitive rehabilitation program, Italian researchers found. Their study was published today in the journal Radiology.

The small study from the San Raffaele Vita-Salute University in Milan involved 20 patients with MS. Along with many physical symptoms, MS also can cause memory loss and other cognitive effects. Ten patients were controls and the other 10 were assigned to a 12-week computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation program that worked on attention and information processing, and executive functions.

All 20 patients underwent baseline neuropsychology assessments and fMRI; this was repeated after 12 weeks. Among the patients who participated in the rehabilitation program, the researchers found changes in activity in several brain regions that were not seen in the controls. The researchers did not, however, find any structural changes in the gray matter or normal-appearing with matter.

“The findings demonstrated that computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation in patients with MS results in an improvement of the trained cognitive functions,” said the study’s lead author, Massimo Filippi, MD. “However, the structural integrity of the brain’s gray matter and white matter showed no modifications in these patients, suggesting an impairment of structural plasticity.”
 

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