Many people with MS have memory problems, up to half in some studies. To date, there is no treatment for that memory loss that has been shown to be effective in clinical trials.
Researchers from New Jersey have investigated the potential for aerobic exercise to affect memory after other trials showed some benefit in the elderly and in people with schizophrenia. They used an array of detailed tests to check memory status and used functional MRI to look at potential changes in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory forming, organising and storing.
This was a small pilot study of just two people, both women, one of whom undertook aerobic exercise (exercise that raises the heart rate and works out the cardiovascular system) and one who did non-aerobic exercise (such as lifting weights). The results were very encouraging, with the woman undertaking aerobic exercise showing an increase in her memory scores of over 50%, and her hippocampus increasing in size by 16.5%, whereas the woman undertaking non-aerobic exercise had negligible increase in hippocampal size and no change in memory.
The authors stated that this may be the first effective memory treatment for people with MS. Importantly they noted that it is cost effective, widely available and has no adverse effects. There is every reason for people with MS to undertake regular vigorous exercise to the extent they can.
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