Glenn Wylie, DPhil, associate director of the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center (RONIC) at Kessler Foundation, has received a $300,000 sub-award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a collaborative study with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Cognitive impairment is prevalent in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), yet often poorly managed. Aerobic exercise training is a promising approach for managing cognitive dysfunction in MS; however, results from previous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been equivocal.

In this study, researchers will assess the effects of a progressive, 3-month treadmill walking exercise intervention on cognitive processing speed (CPS), brain volume, and functional connectivity in individuals with MS.

MS-related cognitive impairment

"We know from our own pilot data that exercise training has considerable promise for improving cognition in this population," explained Dr. Wylie. "We hypothesize that treadmill exercise training will result in significant improvements in MS-related cognitive impairment. This research may foster the development of exercise training guidelines that can be used by clinicians to improve cognition and brain health in individuals with MS."

UAB researchers plan to enroll 88 people with MS who present with slowed CPS, the most commonly impaired cognitive domain in MS. Data will be collected by UAB researchers at baseline and follow-up time points, for analysis by Kessler Foundation researchers.

"This study may provide the first Class I evidence for the effects of treadmill walking exercise training as a rehabilitative approach to cognitive deficits in people with MS," remarked Brian Sandroff, PhD, principal investigator of the study, and assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions.

"As a former postdoctoral fellow at Kessler Foundation, it is gratifying to continue to work with Dr. Wylie to develop effective, non-invasive treatments that minimize the effects of MS on cognitive performance. Our goal is to help individuals with MS remain active at home, in their communities, and the workplace."