There are many advances to help with physical changes from Multiple Sclerosis, but very little to treat the memory and behavior changes.
Local doctors are trying a different approach as part of a free study.
Jim Hunt, of Gulfport, remembers when he started to lose sight and have pain in one eye. He was a pharmaceutical sales rep only in his 30s. Then one day, in a sales call with a doctor, something went wrong.
"He said, 'What's wrong with your face?' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' And he said, 'Go look in the mirror.' And my face was doing this. I had Bell's Palsy," said Hunt, remembering how one side of his face had no muscle control and was drooping.
Now at 51, Jim has been living with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis for 14 years. In the beginning, there was a lot of fear of the unknown.
"When I was diagnosed, there were only two drugs on the market. Today, there's probably 13 or 14 different drugs on the market. I used to have to take lots of shots. Now I take an oral medication," said Hunt.
Jim credits his team of doctors with his ability to still walk and stay out of a wheelchair, But he had to quit his sales job because the MS was affecting his brain and ability to interact with others.
"If your lesions are more towards the frontal lobes (of your brain), then you'll have some difficulties with planning, organizing things, being able to switch from one thing to the other. You also have some difficulties controlling impulses, emotions, and so you may have difficulty managing anger, managing anxieties, fear," explained Dr. Jesus Lovera, Assistant Professor of Neurology at LSUHSC.
Not only can people with MS have physical effects, but more than half can have cognitive effects, so Jim signed up for a study at LSU Health Sciences Center. Dr. Deidre Devier is looking to see if cognitive rehab, that has been used to help people who had strokes or traumatic brain injury, can also help people with MS.
"There's some evidence that it might be helpful in improving cognition, so we wanted to look at the same thing in our study population to see if this computer based program was useful in improving cognition," said Dr. Deidre Devier, an Assistant Professor of Experimental Psychology and the Principal Investigator of the study at LSUHSC.
"Memory? You know I don't remember anything and it's not just 'cause I'm 51," said Hunt.
Jim finished his 12 weeks of free memory rehab, and he does notice some improvement, but LSU doctors are looking for more people with MS to join the study.
And they need people without MS in the study too, so they can compare the results of the EEGs, those recordings of electrical brain wave patterns.
Jim is glad he joined.
"If I can do something good, and this has worked for me, with this awful disease, if I can spread something positive to someone else who's really struggling with it, that's the way I would you know, maybe be able to help others," said Hunt.
Doctors are looking for people with and without Multiple Sclerosis for the study.
They also need people with Parkinson's, dementia, Alzheimer's and Huntington's to see how eye movement control relates to cognitive changes.
For more call 504-568-2146.
Study inclusion details:
This study is looking at how cognitive rehabilitation may help improve memory and attention.
Key Study Eligibility Requirements:
• Adult diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS
• No relapses in the past 6 months
• Noticeable decline in memory or other thinking
• Study volunteers will be provided a research-related assessment at no cost
Why should I participate?
By taking part in this study, you will
• Be tested to measure your cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and how fast you can think and react
• Receive 12 weeks of cognitive rehabilitation
• Possibly help yourself and others by contributing to research
• Help promote future research in Multiple Sclerosis
• To learn more about this research study, please contact the study Principal Investigator:
• Deidre J. Devier, PhD
• LSUHSC - NO Brain and Behavior Program
• 504-568-2146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org