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Mental Activity May Protect Brain in Multiple Sclerosis

Those with intellectually enriched lives show less cognitive decline even with brain atrophy

MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of intellectual enrichment may negate the negative impact of brain atrophy in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to research published in the June 15 issue of Neurology.

To determine the impact of intellectual enrichment on brain atrophy in people with MS, James F. Sumowski, Ph.D., of the Kessler Foundation Research Center in West Orange, N.J., and colleagues examined neuropsychological measures of learning and memory, and the lifetime accumulation of word knowledge in 44 MS patients.

The researchers found good scores on learning and memory tests among patients with mentally active lifestyles whether they had lower or higher amounts of brain atrophy. Among those whose lifestyles were less intellectually stimulating, the researchers found a greater association with slower rates of learning and lower recall in those with higher levels of brain atrophy than in those with less brain damage.

"These findings help to explain the incomplete relationship between MS disease severity and cognition, as the effect of disease on cognition is attenuated among patients with higher intellectual enrichment. As such, intellectual enrichment is supported as a protective factor against disease-related cognitive impairment in persons with MS," the authors write.

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