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New study aims to help treat the invisible symptoms of MS

Addressing the cognitive symptoms of MS on World MS Day

LHSC: University Hospital - 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common neurological disorders, with 2.3 million people diagnosed worldwide. It is believed that hundreds of thousands more are undiagnosed, and many are impacted indirectly by caring for someone with MS.

May 30, is World MS Day. This year’s global campaign, called “My Invisible MS,” is focused on raising awareness and bringing visibility to the hidden symptoms of the disease.

“These invisible symptoms of MS can impact a person’s life as much as other physical symptoms. They can affect a person’s employment, their ability to drive, their relationships and quality of life,” explains Dr. Sarah Morrow, Associate Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson), and Director of the London MS Clinic at London Health Sciences Centre.

MS is known to cause problems with mobility, balance and vision. It can also affect cognition, a person’s ability to think and remember. The invisible symptoms of MS, including cognitive impairment, can have devastating effects on the lives of persons with MS, as well as their families.

Specifically, MS affects information processing speed, or the ability to take in and interpret information quickly and meaningfully. Patients with processing speed problems often complain of being slower to respond, and that simple tasks require more time, attention and focus than in the past.

A new study from Lawson Health Research Institute aims to improve processing speed in persons with MS by examining the effect of Adderall XR, a slow release amphetamine medication, on those who demonstrate impaired processing speed. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either 10 mg or 20 mg of Adderall XR, or placebo, for twelve weeks.

In addition to monitoring processing speed, researchers will also examine memory, fatigue, mood and quality of life, to ensure any benefit measured translates into a tangible change in day to day life.

Cognitive impairment affects 40 – 60 per cent of persons with MS. Furthermore, previous studies have demonstrated that, once present, cognitive impairment is unlikely to improve, and there is a high risk of it getting worse over time. To date there are no treatments available to help with the decline of cognition in persons with MS.

“If this study proves positive, persons with MS will, for the first time, have a verified treatment to improve cognitive impairment, allowing them to continue on with their life, and improve their overall wellbeing,” says Dr. Morrow.