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Kessler Foundation and UAB Study Aerobic Exercise to Improve Cognitive Deficits in MS

Head-shot of John DeLuca

This collaborative study funded by EMD Serono examines the effects of aerobic exercise training as a rehabilitative tool to improve cognitive impairment in people with MS

East Hanover, NJ –October 29, 2018 – John DeLuca, PhD, senior vice president for Research and Training at Kessler Foundation, has received a $95,000 sub-award from EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in the U.S. and Canada. The award funds a collaborative study with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) titled “Effects of Walking Exercise Training on Learning and Memory Outcomes in Multiple Sclerosis.”

Learning and memory impairments are prevalent, disabling, and poorly-managed among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Exercise training may be an effective behavioral approach for managing MS-related cognitive dysfunction. This randomized controlled trial examines the effects of treadmill walking exercise training on learning and memory performance, hippocampal volume, and hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity in people with MS.

“Aerobic exercise may improve cognitive deficits in people with MS through neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by generating new neural connections throughout life,” remarked Dr. DeLuca. “We predict that improvements in learning and memory and cardiorespiratory fitness will be associated with increased hippocampal volume and resting-state functional connectivity. The results of this research will lay the groundwork for physical rehabilitation interventions that improve cognitive function in people with MS.”

UAB researchers plan to enroll 40 people with MS who demonstrate objective learning and memory impairments. Baseline and follow-up MRI data will be collected by UAB researchers and analyzed by Kessler Foundation researchers.

“This study is the first to examine two different exercise programs as potential treatments for MS-related learning-and-memory impairment,” remarked Brian Sandroff, PhD, principal investigator of the study, and assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions. “Through this rigorous study, we anticipate we will provide important evidence for the potential role of exercise training for managing learning and memory problems in MS,” he summarized.

About the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, as well as Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $7 billion on the state. The pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; service and engagement in the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; drive innovation and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama; research, the creation of new knowledge; and patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge. Learn more at

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that improves 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. Learn more by visiting

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382; 
Nicky Miller, 973-323-3683,

Submitted by nmiller on Mon, 10/29/2018 - 13:45