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Aerobic Exercise Boosts Memory in Multiple Sclerosis, Study

Update Date: Nov 01, 2013 07:30 PM EDT

Aerobic exercise may help boost memory in multiple sclerosis patients, according to a new study.

While 50 percent of people with multiple sclerosis experience memory deficits linked to hippocampal atrophy, there are no effective pharmacological or behavioral treatments, according to researchers.

"Aerobic exercise may be the first effective treatment for MS patients with memory problems," lead researcher Victoria Leavitt, a research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, said in a news release.

"Moreover, aerobic exercise has the advantages of being readily available, low cost, self-administered, and lacking in side effects," she added.

The latest study involved two multiple sclerosis patients with memory deficits who were randomized to non-aerobic (stretching) and aerobic (stationary cycling) conditions.

Researchers recorded memory ability before and after the treatment protocol of 30-minute exercise sessions 3 times per week for 3 months.

MRI brain scans and memory tests revealed that aerobic exercise lead in a 16.5 percent increase in hippocampal volume, a 53.7 percent increase in memory, and increased hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity.

However, no significant change in hippocampal volume, memory or functional connectivity was seen in the non-aerobic exercise group.

"These findings clearly warrant large-scale clinical trials of aerobic exercise for the treatment of memory deficits in the MS population," James Sumowski,, Ph.D., research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, said in a statement.

The findings are published in the journal Neurocase

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