Washington: A new study has provided evidence for beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on brain and memory in people afflicted with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Hippocampal atrophy seen in MS is linked to the memory deficits that affect approximately 50 percent of individuals with MS.
Despite the prevalence of this disabling symptom, there are no effective pharmacological or behavioral treatments.
Dr. Victoria Leavitt, research scientist in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation said that aerobic exercise may be the first effective treatment for MS patients with memory problems.
She said that moreover, aerobic exercise has the advantages of being readily available, low cost, self-administered, and lacking in side effects.
The study's participants were two MS patients with memory deficits who were randomized to non-aerobic (stretching) and aerobic (stationary cycling) conditions.
Baseline and follow-up measurements were recorded before and after the treatment protocol of 30-minute exercise sessions 3 times per week for 3 months. Data were collected by high-resolution MRI (neuroanatomical volumes), fMRI (functional connectivity), and memory assessment.
Aerobic exercise resulted in a 16.5 percent increase in hippocampal volume, a 53.7 percent increase in memory, and increased hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity. Non-aerobic exercise resulted in minimal change in hippocampal volume and no changes in memory or functional connectivity.
The study has been published in journal Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition.