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Thinking About Emotional Wellness

Blog Summary

Last week, I attended the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles. There were several studies presented on aspects of emotional health, and it got me thinking about how important it is to remember that our emotional health can affect many aspects of living with MS.

Research has shown that anxiety and depression can occur as MS symptoms, not just as reactions to having the disease. One poster presentation I saw was by Canadian researchers, who generally do a pretty good job tracking people with MS because of their unified health systems and electronic records. They reported that anxiety (and diabetes) could have a negative impact on a person’s cognition. The researchers commented that it’s possible that treating diabetes or anxiety could improve cognitive problems for people with MS.

The Past and Future of MRI in MS

Blog Summary

Most people who have been diagnosed with MS have had at least one MRI scan done of their brain. Having a scan can be a strange experience, but it’s the best tool doctors have for helping to confirm or rule out an MS diagnosis, and for tracking what MS is doing silently, even if there are no physical signs.   At the 2018 American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles, I was able to attend the lecture of this year’s winner of the John Dystel Prize for MS Research, Dr. Frederik Barkhof. He pioneered the use of MRI to improve the ability to diagnose MS, and to monitor MS and detect whether a treatment is having any benefits against the lesions—those white spots or black spots that show up on the scans...

Care That's Personalized for You

Blog Summary

Receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be frightening. I know firsthand—I was diagnosed in 2013 shortly after I turned 29. I worried about my future and mourned for my past.   The disease comes in several forms with many manifestations. Much like our varied symptoms, people living with MS embark on different journeys. But while our individual experiences may be unique, there are similar underlying needs and conversations that must be had...

Repairing Myelin to Restore Function

Blog Summary

There were many talks about some really interesting and promising research at the 2018 ACTRIMS Forum. What’s great is that you can browse the online abstracts (scientific summaries) of the ACTRIMS Forum presentations and posters to see for yourself.   One of the most interesting and exciting talks I heard was presented by the latest winner of the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research, Dr. Robin Franklin from Cambridge University. This is the first time that the Barancik Prize has been presented at the ACTRIMS Forum, and he gave a great lecture (here’s a video that introduces Dr. Franklin, in case you’re interested)...

Did You Know?

Blog Summary

Greetings from the ACTRIMS Forum 2018! This 3-day meeting brings together almost 1,000 MS-focused health care professionals, such as researchers and neurologists, and lets them share their latest research findings. I wanted to share with you a few of the amazing things I’ve learned so far at this inspiring meeting.   There are plenty of lectures from experts who were invited to review the latest research on specific topics. Then there are also presentations by investigators who submitted summaries of their results to the meeting organizers, for possible acceptance as either lectures or as posters. I happen to love poster sessions. Kind of like a science fair, you can go up to researchers and their posters and talk to them about their work...

Hope

Blog Summary

When I was 18 years old, I moved out of my parents’ home to live with my non-English speaking uncle, who had recently been diagnosed with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis. Shortly after his diagnosis, my uncle lost his job, his wife divorced him, he could no longer walk without a walker, and he was left feeling weak and hopeless. By being his primary translator at doctor visits, teaching him how to self-administer Copaxone injections, taking him to the ER after adverse reactions to treatment, explaining how one treatment compares to another, and emotionally supporting and encouraging him to never quit fighting, I witnessed firsthand what an individual with MS struggles with daily...

Advances in MS Progression and Nervous System Repair at the AAN

Blog Summary

I’ve just returned from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting in Boston, where thousands of the country’s leading neurologists shared their most recent research findings. I wanted to share the exciting advances being made towards a better understanding and treatment of progressive MS and new research that is getting us closer to the repair of the nervous system and restoration of lost function...

New Rehab Techniques in Motion at the AAN Meeting

Blog Summary

I recently joined the MS Society’s research team and in this new role, I am really excited to attend my first annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Boston. I am a scientist in the field of neuroscience and rehabilitation, and while this meeting has not traditionally focused on rehabilitation, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of studies being presented that explore rehabilitation approaches and symptom management. This research area speaks to questions around how to improve a person’s wellbeing and quality of life, and it’s very close to my heart.   Here are just a few studies that caught my eye...

When Genes and the Environment Collide

Blog Summary

What happens when genes and the environment interact? This question is one of the complex pieces of the MS puzzle. More than 200 MS susceptibility genes have been identified, and the list of environmental factors linked to MS is slowly coming into focus. Of course, it’s important to remember that not everyone who develops MS has been exposed to the identified MS risk factors, and people exposed to those factors won’t necessarily develop MS. But how do genetic and environmental triggers interact to bring on MS, or make it worse? Several presentations at last week’s ACTRIMS 2017 meeting addressed these important gaps in our knowledge...

Vitamin D and Gut Bacteria: More Clues and Questions

Blog Summary

I just got back from ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for the Treatment and Research in MS), where more than 700 MS doctors and researchers shared their results, especially their work aligned with this year’s theme: Environmental Factors, Genetics, and Epigenetics in MS Susceptibility and Clinical Course. This was my first time at ACTRIMS and I found the theme and the talks really compelling. One thing that struck me is the evolving story about how specific things we all encounter in our lives interact with the “cards” (genes) we were dealt at birth. Our genes predispose us to be susceptible to various medical conditions, but that doesn’t mean we will get those conditions. In the case of MS, now there are 200 genetic variants identified that increase a person’s likelihood of getting the disease. I’m struck by how many “moving parts” seem to be involved in whether or not a person gets MS and what their MS experience and course will be...

MS Symptoms: Researchers Look for Life-Changing Breakthroughs

Blog Summary

Stopping the effects of even one MS symptom can be a life-changing breakthrough for an individual with MS. I’m encouraged by the many strategies I heard about at ECTRIMS and its companion meeting, Rehabilitation in MS (RIMS), and am hopeful that they can soon be put into action to change the lives of people with MS.Fatigue – Dr. Vincent de Groot (Vu University Medical Center, Amsterdam) reported results from three clinical trials, each testing a different strategy to see if it could lessen fatigue over 16 weeks in approximately 90 people with MS: aerobic training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and energy conservation management.  Only cognitive behavioral therapy effectively reduced severe fatigue in this short-term study. We know that psychological interventions are a part of managing fatigue, and these results certainly support that...