Text Size: a  |   a 

University at Buffalo to do Cognitive Training and Myelin Repair Studies

February 21, 2018

Researchers of University at Buffalo are working on ways to improve multiple sclerosis patients’ cognitive function and to repair damage to the myelin coating that protects nerve cells.

The study will look at whether neuroscience-based training programs can improve MS patients’ cognitive function. The study is called, “The Effects of Working Memory Training on Brain Function, Structure, and Cognition in MS.”

These training programs will be focused on the improvement of patients’ working memory as well as processing speed, both things that are impaired in those with MS.

Those who receive training will be compared to the controls who do not. One of the cognitive function yardsticks will be changes in patients’ brain structure that show up on magnetic resonance imaging scans, and the other will be changes in brain function.

The team will measure these results by using MRI scans and electrophysiology, which is a technique that assesses brain activity.

Based off of findings from a pilot study—which involved patients and controls completing a computer-based working memory program and a perceptual processing speed training program—the training led to significant changes in cognitive performance and brain function. Research will provide information on nerve-cell networks involving working memory in patients, in addition to the effects of training programs.

Dr. Janet L. Schucard, the study’s principal investigator, said this will the study be the first to separately examine the effects of working memory and processing speed training in adult MS patients. She also added, “The strengthening of these cognitive abilities may help to prevent or delay the impact that cognitive deficits have on quality of life, vocational status, and disease-related outcomes.”

The second project will be a three-year study focusing on the potential of blocking enzymes, sulfatases, to repair the myelin coating that is damaged in MS, called “Targeting Extracellular Sulfatases to Accelerate Oligodendrocyte Progenitor-Based Myelin Repair and Regeneration.”

The focus of this study will be to determine whether blocking sulfatases can increase oligodendrocyte precursor cells ability to start repair myelin. The work could lead to new therapies for reversing MS.

Damaged oligodendrocytes cause severe and progressive disabilities seen in MS, as well as prevents the oligodendrocyte precursor cells from regenerating myelin. A key part of this project is studying the role that a biological process called heparin sulfate proteoglycan sulfation plays in MS.

This has the potential to improve transplanted human cells’ ability to repair the brains of MS patients.