Older news items (pre-2010) brought over from the old website
MS can affect children's IQ, thinking skills
Multiple sclerosis typically starts in young adulthood, but about 5% start in childhood or adolescence. A study of 63 children under age 18 with MS has found that they more likely to have low IQ scores than healthy controls. Five of the children with MS had IQ scores of less than 70 (none of the controls did), 15 had IQ scores between 70 and 89 (compared to two of the controls), and 31% of the MS children met the criteria for cognitive impairment compared to less than 5% of the controls. Low IQs were correlated with younger age at onset. About 30% of the children with MS also had language difficulties, which is not common in adults with MS. It may be that children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of MS because their brain is still developing.
 Cognitive and psychosocial features of childhood and juvenile MS.
Neurology. 70(20), 1891 - 1897.
Smoking marijuana impairs cognitive function in MS patients
A study of 140 Canadians with multiple sclerosis has found that those (10) who were defined as current marijuana users performed 50% slower on tests of information processing speed compared to matched MS patients who did not smoke marijuana. There was also a significant association between smoking marijuana and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.
 Multiple sclerosis and cannabis. A cognitive and psychiatric study.
Neurology. 01.wnl.0000304046.23960.25 - 01.wnl.0000304046.23960.25.
Preconditioning could prevent injury to dendrites in neurological diseases
New research has revealed a previously unknown mechanism by which brain cells can be damaged during chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and dementia associated with HIV. When inflammation occurs in the brain, nerve impulses can become toxic. Instead of triggering the formation of memories, these impulses can inflict injury on neurons and disrupt neural function. Understanding this mechanism could provide a new path for drugs to treat the diseases, perhaps by chemical preconditioning to induce adaptations in nerve cells that would enable the cells to better withstand toxic attacks, prevent injury, and preserve function.
 Synaptic activity becomes excitotoxic in neurons exposed to elevated levels of platelet-activating factor.
Journal of Clinical Investigation. 115(11), 3185 - 3192.
Ginkgo may improve executive function in MS patients
A study of 39 MS patients found that those receiving ginkgo biloba were about 13% faster on a Stroop test (measures a person's ability to pay attention and to sort conflicting information). Such a difference would be comparable to differences in scores between healthy people ages 30 to 39 and those ages 50 to 59. The benefit appeared to be greatest for those who had certain problems with the Stroop test.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 57th Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla.
Alzheimer's drug improves cognition in MS patients
An estimated 50% of multiple sclerosis patients suffer some degree of cognitive impairment. A pilot study suggests that donepezil, a drug widely used for treating dementia in Alzheimer's patients, may improve memory and cognition in MS patients who are mild to moderately cognitively impaired. The trial involved 69 MS patients. Over 65% of those given donepezil showed cognitive improvement, compared to 32% of those receiving a placebo.
The study was presented by Laura Krupp at the American Academy of Neurology 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on April 27.
Ginkgo biloba may slow cognitive decline in patients with mild multiple sclerosis
A six-month double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of 23 individuals with mild multiple sclerosis found that patients who took the herb Ginkgo biloba performed better on neuropsychological tests compared to those who took the inactive placebo.
Corey-Bloom, J., Kenney, C. & Norman, M. 2002. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology on April 18 in Denver, Colorado.
Alzheimer's drug may help cognitive impairment in patients with multiple sclerosis
Cognitive problems affect up to 60% of patients with multiple sclerosis. Treatment of MS has until now paid little attention to this aspect of the disease. A preliminary study of 17 patients with advanced MS and severe cognitive impairment found that a drug currently used to treat mild to moderate dementia from Alzheimer’s disease was noticeably effective in improving the cognitive functioning in many of the MS patients. A study of 240 patients at 21 hospitals and medical centers is now about to commence.
Driving problems for those with Multiple Sclerosis
People who suffer from cognitive difficulties related to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may have a slower driving reaction time and increased risk of accidents. The study compared 13 people with MS who exhibited cognitive difficulties, 15 people with MS who did not exhibit cognitive difficulties, and 17 people without MS. Based on two computerized driving tests, those with MS who exhibited cognitive difficulties had a slower response time by 1,721 milliseconds than the other MS participants. In addition, 29 percent of these people tested as high risk for accident involvement.
 The influence of cognitive impairment on driving performance in multiple sclerosis.
Neurology. 56(8), 1089 - 1094.