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Kessler Foundation MS researchers link cognition with limited activity and participation

West Orange, NJ. August 21, 2015.  Kessler Foundation researchers found that processing speed is the primary limiting factor associated with activity and participation in everyday life among people with multiple sclerosis (MS). “Factors that moderate activity limitation and participation restriction in people with multiple sclerosis” was published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. This is the first MS study of cognition and measures of activity and participation.  The authors are Yael Goverover, PhD, of New York University and visiting professor at Kessler Foundation, and Lauren Strober, PhD, Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, of Kessler Foundation.

MS, the leading cause of disability in working age adults, has a substantial negative impact on quality of life. The employment rate declines from 90% to 20% to 30% within five years of diagnosis, and only 35% of individuals with documented MS report normal social and lifestyle activities.  Identifying modifiable factors associated with these limitations may help occupational therapists develop effective interventions. Because cognitive impairments are often implicated in declines in social participation and employment, researchers examined cognitive factors associated with both activity and participation. The study, which included 72 individuals with MS, focused on cooking ability for activity and employment status for participation. Assessment included neuropsychological testing of memory, executive function, visual perception, and processing speed, and questionnaires about fatigue, affective symptoms, activity and participation.    

“The only variable significantly related to activity and participation was processing speed, “noted Dr. Goverover. “For occupational therapists, this means that implementing strategies that improve processing speed may help people with MS maintain their daily activities and stay in the workplace. In light of the close association between cognitive factors and cooking, providers should be aware that decline in cooking skills may be sign of cognitive decline in MS.” 

Funded by a grant from National MS Society.

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, NJ Commission on Brain Injury Research, Consortium of MS Centers, International Progressive MS Alliance, the Patterson Trust, ARSEP Foundation, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca, Ph.D., and Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, emotional processing and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, mobile devices and virtual reality. Among discoveries are the benefits of cognitive reserve and aerobic exercise; correlation between cognitive performance and outdoor temperatures; efficacy of short-term cognitive rehabilitation using modified story technique; and the correlation between memory improvement and cerebral activation on fMRI. Foundation research scientists have faculty appointments at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

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.

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