In addition, MRI scans of the patients showed that the fitter MS patients showed less damage in parts of the brain that show deterioration as a result of MS, as well as a greater volume of vital gray matter.
“We found that aerobic fitness has a protective effect on parts of the brain that are most affected by multiple sclerosis,” said Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
“As a result, these fitter patients actually show better performance on tasks that measure processing speed.”
The study, done with colleagues Robert Motl and Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois and Erin Snook of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, appears online in the journal Brain Research and will be published in a future print edition.
The study involved 21 women diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. They were compared with 15 age- and education-matched healthy female controls. The study assessed fitness, cognitive function, and structural changes in all participants.
In order to measure fitness levels, the participants underwent a VO2 max test, in which they rode a stationary bicycle until they felt exhausted. During the test, they breathed into a mask which measured their oxygen consumption.
All the women also took a variety of tests designed to evaluate cognitive functions, such as processing speed and selective attention. In one test, for example, participants had to write down in one minute as many words as they could think of that began with the letter “F.” MS patients generally perform poorly on these tests compared to healthy people.
The third analysis involved MRIs of the participants, revealing any damage to their brains.
As expected, the MS patients did much worse than the healthy controls on the tests of brain functioning, and showed more deterioration in their brains as revealed through the MRIs.
But what was interesting, Prakash said, was the significant differences between the more aerobically fit MS patients and those who were less fit.
Take, for instance, lesions, which are the characteristic feature of MS. Lesions are areas of inflammation in the central nervous system in which neurons have been stripped of myelin, an insulating protein.
“Physically fit MS patients had fewer lesions compared to those who weren’t as fit and the lesions they did have tended to be smaller,” Prakash said. “This is significant and can help explain why the higher-fit patients did better on tests of brain functioning.”
Aerobic fitness was also associated with less-damaged brain tissue in MS patients, both the gray matter and white matter.
Gray matter is the cell bodies in the brain tissue, while white matter is the fibers that connect the various gray matter areas.
The study found that fitness in MS patients was associated with larger volume of gray matter, accounting for about 20 percent of the volume in gray matter. That’s important, Prakash said, because gray matter is linked to brain processing skills.
“Even in gray matter that appeared relatively healthy, we found a deterioration in the volume in MS patients,” she said. “But for some of the highest fit MS patients, we found that their gray matter volume was nearly equivalent to that of healthy controls.”
Another MRI analysis involved the integrity of the white matter in the brain. In MS patients, the white matter deteriorates as the myelin is stripped from neurons. Again, higher-fit MS patients showed less deterioration of white matter compared to those who were less fit.
Overall, the three MRI tests in this study showed that parts of the brain involved in processing speed are all negatively affected by MS – but less so in patients who are aerobically fit.
Prakash noted that other researchers have found that exercise promotes the production of nerve growth factors, proteins which are important for the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain.
“Our hypothesis is that aerobic exercise enhances these nerve growth factors in MS patients, which increases the volume of the gray matter and increases the integrity of the white matter,” she said.
“As a result there is an improvement in cognitive function.”
Prakash and her colleagues plan to extend this research by studying whether exercise interventions with MS patients can actually improve their cognition and have positive physical effects on the brain.
“For a long time, MS patients were told not to exercise because there was a fear it could exacerbate their symptoms,” she said.
“But we’re finding that if MS patients exercise in a controlled setting, it can actually help them with their cognitive function.”
The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.Contact: Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, (614) 292-8462; Prakash.email@example.com
Ruchika Shaurya Prakash | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Life Sciences
05.12.2016 | Life Sciences
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering