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MS research update – Which leisure activities can help memory in MS? – 29 February 2016

Summary

This study examined which leisure activities were related to better memory in people with MS.

242 people with MS in Italy and the United States took part in the study. Participants were asked about the leisure activities they had participated in since their early 20’s. They also completed several tests that assessed their memory and had their brains scanned to look at the size of the brain region that is involved in memory (the hippocampus).

The researchers found that doing more reading and writing activities was linked to having better memory. The area of the brain involved in memory was also larger in the participants who took part in these activities.

The researchers suggest this could lead to programmes of activities that could be used as brain training to help to keep the brain and mind healthy and protect against memory problems in people with MS.

Background

About half of all people with MS have problems at some time with aspects of thinking (cognition) such as memory, concentration or problem solving. Memory difficulties can have a big impact on daily life. In MS memory problems are often related to the recall of recent events or information and forgetting to carry out planned actions in the future.

The brain can be very flexible and can sometimes compensate for a difficulty or damage in one area by rerouting messages and finding an alternative way around, a process called plasticity. The potential ability to adapt or be resilient to damage is related to the amount of brain reserve or cognitive reserve, that is to say the brain may have extra capacity in reserve that can be used when you need it. Previous research in a variety of people has found that mentally stimulating activities can make the brain more resilient and able to compensate for longer. People often refer to ‘brain training’, ‘keeping the mind active’ or ‘use it or you lose it’ when referring to the ability to build up the levels of the brains reserve and keep it healthy.

This study examined which leisure activities were related to better memory to see if the researchers could identify activities which could build reserve in people with MS.

How this study was carried out

242 people with MS in Italy and the United States took part in the study. To take part participants had to be aged 25 or over and not had a relapse or steroid treatment for at least four weeks.

Participants were asked about the leisure activities they had participated in since their early 20’s. These were:

1.Read books
2. ​​Read magazines or newspapers
3. Produce non-artistic writing (such as a diary or newsletters)
4. Produce art (such as painting or poetry)
5. Play a musical instrument
6. Play structured games (such as board games or crossword puzzles)
7. Participate in hobbies (such as model building or gardening)

These were grouped into three categories:

  • reading-writing activities (activities 1-3)
  • art-music activities (activities 4-5)
  • games-hobbies activities (activities 6-7)

They also completed several tests that assessed their memory and had their brains scanned to look at the size of the brain region that is involved in memory (the hippocampus). A full set of memory assessment data was available for 150 participants.

What was found

The researchers found that doing more reading and writing activities was linked to having better memory. The area of the brain involved in memory was also larger in the participants who took part in these activities.

What does it mean?

The study shows that engaging in literacy activities such as reading books or writing a diary, from early adulthood could help memory in people with MS. This could be because as adults most of our new knowledge comes from reading about things and this could help protect the brain areas involved in learning and memory from MS related cognitive problems. Although the study did not find a benefit to memory from activities involving art, music, games or hobbies, the researchers highlight this may be because these activities may involve learning and remembering in a different way and using a different brain area to the one looked at in this study.

The limitation of the study was that it asked the participants to recall the types of activities they were doing in the past. The strengths of the study are that they studied people with MS from different countries who spoke different languages and still found a similar result, so the results are probably not due to a specific cultural or language factor. The researchers conclude by saying further studies would be needed to confirm the link between engaging in literacy activities and better memory in people with MS. However they do say that this could lead to programmes of activities that could help to preserve the so-called ‘cognitive reserve’ and protect against memory problems in people with MS.

Sumowski JF, Rocca MA, Leavitt VM, et al.
Reading, writing, and reserve: Literacy activities are linked to hippocampal volume and memory in multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 26. pii: 1352458516630822. [Epub ahead of print]
Abstract

More about memory and other cognitive symptoms

Cognitive difficulties is the term used to describe a range of problems with slowed thinking such as poor memory, attention span or concentration and difficulty following complicated instructions or problem solving. Cognitive symptoms are common in MS but may not be recognised. Management of these symptoms involves finding strategies that minimise the difficulty, for example, if you have trouble remembering where you've put your car keys, always putting them in the same place will help.

There is more information, tips and strategies for getting around cognitive symptoms including memory problems on the StayingSmart website. StayingSmart was developed by the MS Trust in partnership with Prof Dawn Langdon, a neuropsychologist at Royal Holloway University of London. The Tips and Tricks section, which includes ideas shared by people living with cognitive symptoms, and Gadgets and Gizmos features readily available items of equipment that may be helpful.

You can also read more about cognition and MS in the A to Z of MS.

Research by topic areas...

Assessment tools

Ross E, Purtill H, Uszynski M, et al.
Cohort study comparing the Berg Balance Scale and the Mini-BESTest in ambulatory people with multiple sclerosis.
Phys Ther. 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
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Kahraman T, Savci S, Coskuner Poyraz E, et al.
Utilization of the Expanded Disability Status Scale as a distinctive instrument for walking impairment in persons with multiple sclerosis with mild disability.
NeuroRehabilitation. 2016 Feb 10;38(1):7-14.
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Causes of MS

Barnett MH, McLeod JG, Hammond SR, et al.
Migration and multiple sclerosis in immigrants from United Kingdom and Ireland to Australia: a reassessment. III: risk of multiple sclerosis in UKI immigrants and Australian-born in Hobart, Tasmania.
J Neurol. 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
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CCSVI

Metz LM, Greenfield J, Marrie RA, et al.
Medical tourism for CCSVI procedures in people with multiple sclerosis: an observational study.
Can J Neurol Sci. 2016 Feb 4:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]
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Co-existing conditions

Sahai-Srivastava S, Wang SL, Ugurlu C, et al.
Headaches in multiple sclerosis: cross-sectional study of a multiethnic population.
Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2016 Feb 1;143:71-75. [Epub ahead of print]
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Disease modifying drugs

Thiel S, Langer-Gould A, Rockhoff M, et al.
Interferon-beta exposure during first trimester is safe in women with multiple sclerosis-A prospective cohort study from the German Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy Registry.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Abstract

Fox EJ, Vasquez A, Grainger W, et al.
Gastrointestinal tolerability of delayed-release dimethyl fumarate in a multicenter, open-label study of patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MANAGE).
Int J MS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;18(1):9-18.
Abstract
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Zhovtis Ryerson L, Frohman TC, Foley J, et al.
Extended interval dosing of natalizumab in multiple sclerosis.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
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Ziemssen T, Calabrese P, Penner IK, et al.
QualiCOP: real-world effectiveness, tolerability, and quality of life in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis treated with glatiramer acetate, treatment-naïve patients, and previously treated patients.
J Neurol. 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Abstract

Farrokhi M, Beni AA, Etemadifar M, et al.
Effect of fingolimod on platelet count among multiple sclerosis patients.
Int J Prev Med. 2015;6:125.
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Tolley K, Hutchinson M, You X, et al.
A network meta-analysis of efficacy and evaluation of safety of subcutaneous pegylated interferon beta-1a versus other injectable therapies for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
PLoS One. 2015;10(6):e0127960.
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Fox RJ, Salter A, Alster JM, et al.
Risk tolerance to MS therapies: survey results from the NARCOMS registry.
Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2015 May;4(3):241-9.
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Drugs in development

Cohen JA, Arnold DL, Comi G, et al.
Safety and efficacy of the selective sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator ozanimod in relapsing multiple sclerosis (RADIANCE): a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial.
Lancet Neurol. 2016 Feb 12. [Epub ahead of print]
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Falls

Hugos CL, Frankel D, Tompkins SA, et al.
Community delivery of a comprehensive fall-prevention program in people with multiple sclerosis: a retrospective observational study.
Int J MS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;18(1):42-8.
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Other

Sanai SA, Saini V, Benedict RH, et al.
Aging and multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 19. [Epub ahead of print]
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Other treatments

Natale M, D'Oria S, Nero VV, et al.
Long-term effects of intrathecal baclofen in multiple sclerosis.
Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2016 Feb 16;143:121-125. [Epub ahead of print]
Abstract

Fernández Ó.
THC:CBD in daily practice: available data from UK, Germany and Spain.
Eur Neurol. 2016;75 Suppl 1:1-3.
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Sawant A, Dadurka K, Overend T, et al.
Systematic review of efficacy of TENS for management of central pain in people with multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2015 May;4(3):219-27.
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Paediatric MS

Grover SA, Aubert-Broche B, Fetco D, et al.
Lower physical activity is associated with higher disease burden in pediatric multiple sclerosis.
Neurology. 2015 Nov 10;85(19):1663-9.
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Pathophysiology

Haider L, Zrzavy T, Hametner S, et al.
The topograpy of demyelination and neurodegeneration in the multiple sclerosis brain.
Brain. 2016 Mar;139(Pt 3):807-15.
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Physical activity

Samaei A, Bakhtiary AH, Hajihasani A, et al.
Uphill and downhill walking in multiple sclerosis: a randomized controlled trial.
Int J MS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;18(1):34-41.
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Ensari I, Sandroff BM, Motl RW.
Effects of single bouts of walking exercise and yoga on acute mood symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis.
Int J MS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;18(1):1-8.
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Deckx N, Wens I, Nuyts AH, et al.
12 Weeks of combined endurance and resistance training reduces innate markers of inflammation in a randomized controlled clinical trial in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:6789276.
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Platta ME, Ensari I, Motl RW, et al.
The effect of exercise training on fitness in multiple sclerosis: a meta-analysis.
Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Feb 16. [Epub ahead of print]
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Fox EE, Hough AD, Creanor S, et al.
, randomised, assessor-blinded, controlled trial.
Phys Ther. 2016 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print]
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Palacios-CEñA D, Ortiz-GUTIéRREZ R, Buesa-Estellez A, et al.
Multiple sclerosis patients' experiences in relation to the impact of the kinect virtual home-exercise programme: a qualitative study.
Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Feb 17. [Epub ahead of print]
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Pregnancy and childbirth

D'Amico E, Leone C, Patti F.
Offspring number does not influence reaching the disability's milestones in multiple sclerosis: a seven-year follow-up study.
Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Feb 12;17(2).
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Razaz N, Tremlett H, Marrie RA, et al.
Peripartum depression in parents with multiple sclerosis and psychiatric disorders in children.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 22. [Epub ahead of print]
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Prognosis

Cavallari M, Palotai M, Glanz BI, et al.
Fatigue predicts disease worsening in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print]
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Stuifbergen AK, Blozis S, Becker H, et al.
Selected health behaviors moderate the progression of functional limitations in persons with multiple sclerosis: eleven years of annual follow-up.
Disabil Health J. 2016 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print]
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Psychological aspects

Roy S, Benedict RH, Drake AS, et al.
Impact of pharmacotherapy on cognitive dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis.
CNS Drugs. 2016 Feb 16. [Epub ahead of print]
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Rehabilitation

D'Amico E, Leone C, Hayrettin T, et al.
Can we define a rehabilitation strategy for cognitive impairment in progressive multiple sclerosis? A critical appraisal.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print]
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Turner AP, Hartoonian N, Sloan AP, et al.
Improving fatigue and depression in individuals with multiple sclerosis using telephone-administered physical activity counseling.
J Consult Clin Psychol. 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
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Relapses

Nickerson M, Cofield SS, Tyry T, et al.
Impact of multiple sclerosis relapse: The NARCOMS participant perspective.
Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2015 May;4(3):234-40.
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Self-management

Mulligan H, Wilkinson A, Snowdon J.
Perceived impact of a self-management program for fatigue in multiple sclerosis: a qualitative study.
Int J MS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;18(1):27-32.
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Symptoms and symptom managment

Jouve L Md, Benrabah R Md, Héron E Md, et al.
Multiple sclerosis-related uveitis: does MS treatment affect uveitis course?
Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2016 Feb 22:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]
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Phé V, Pakzad M, Curtis C, et al.
Urinary tract infections in multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2016 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print]
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Veauthier C, Gaede G, Radbruch H, et al.
Poor sleep in multiple sclerosis correlates with Beck Depression Inventory values, but not with polysomnographic data.
Sleep Disord. 2016;2016:8378423.
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Cortez MM, Nagi Reddy SK, Goodman B, et al.
Autonomic symptom burden is associated with MS-related fatigue and quality of life.
Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2015 May;4(3):258-63.
Abstract

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