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Kessler Foundation scientist receives National MS Society grant for $619,618 to study predictors of memory decline

2013-03-27 12:44:49 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Victoria Leavitt, PhD, of Kessler Foundation was awarded a $619,618 five-year grant from the National MS Society to study predictors of memory decline in MS

West Orange, NJ.  March 27, 2013. The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society awarded Victoria Leavitt, Ph.D., a $619,618 grant to study predictors of memory decline in MS. Dr. Leavitt, a scientist in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to evaluate a brain marker with predictive value for memory decline. This novel five-year study is titled “Resting State Functional Connectivity as a Predictor of Memory Decline in Multiple Sclerosis.” (NMSS grant #389)

Memory impairment is a problem for about 50% of all persons with MS, leading to difficulty maintaining employment, as well as problems managing everyday life functions. Memory impairment is also associated with fatigue, depression, and stress among people with MS.

 “Finding the way to predict memory decline is an essential first step towards eventually finding the way to prevent memory decline in persons with MS.” said John DeLuca, PhD, VP of Research & Training. “At present, clinicians have no tool for identifying patients at risk.  The goal of this study is to evaluate a brain marker that will provide a way to identify which patients may benefit from early behavioral and pharmacological interventions.”

 “We know that such interventions stand to be more effective if implemented at an early stage,” explained Dr. Leavitt.” Our pilot data reveal a unique neural ‘signature' in the brain, detectable with functional neuroimaging, which may help us identify who is at-risk for memory decline at an early point in disease progression. As such, this ‘signature' could be used as a marker for memory decline. Most importantly, this marker is easily and non-invasively obtained in the course of standard brain scans that most people with MS have regularly.”

During this five-year study, patients with MS will undergo baseline fMRI and memory evaluation, and followup three years later to assess the predictive value of the brain marker.

Dr. Leavitt works closely with Dr. DeLuca and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology, Neuroscience & TBI Research at Kessler Foundation, both of whom are experts in cognitive rehabilitation research. Drs. Leavitt, DeLuca and Chiaravalloti have faculty appointments in the department of physical medicine & rehabilitation at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.

Recent articles by Dr. Leavitt:

Leavitt VM et al. Increased functional connectivity within memory networks following memory rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis. Brain Imaging Behav. 2012 Jun 16. [Epub ahead of print]

Leavitt VM, Sumowski JF, Chiaravalloti N, Deluca J. Warmer outdoor temperature is associated with worse cognitive status in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2012 Mar 27;78(13):964-8. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31824d5834.

About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National MS Society and Kessler Foundation. Scientists in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation have made important contributions to knowledge of cognitive decline in MS. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed. Research tools include innovative applications of fMRI and virtual reality. Among recent findings are the benefits of cognitive reserve; correlation between cognitive performance and outdoor temperatures; the efficacy of short-term cognitive rehabilitation using modified story technique; and the correlation between memory improvement and cerebral activation on fMRI.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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Contacts:

Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

Lauren Scrivo, 973.324.8384, 973.768.6583 - c, LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

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