Dr. Chiaravalloti receives grant to improve new learning and memory in multiple sclerosis

The National Institutes of Health awarded a $1,825,742 grant to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, of Kessler Foundation to conduct a randomized controlled trial of strategy-based cognitive training in individuals with cognitive deficits due to multiple sclerosis

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Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, N.J., July 24, 2019. — Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of the Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, was awarded a $1,825,742 R01 grant by the National Institutes of Health for the study entitled, “Evaluation of a Theory-Driven Manualized Approach to Improving New Learning and Memory in Multiple Sclerosis.”

Impairments in new learning and memory negatively affect the everyday lives of many individuals with multiple sclerosis, including their ability to function effectively in work and social settings. Few individuals receive treatment for these impairments because of the Lack of Class I evidence for targeted cognitive rehabilitation interventions. To address the pressing need for such evidence, the Kessler team will conduct a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trial of 120 participants with multiple sclerosis and deficits in learning and memory.

This study builds on the substantial body of research in memory rehabilitation conducted at Kessler Foundation by Dr. Chiaravalloti and colleagues. “Our study examines the efficacy of strategy-based training to enhance memory, or STEM”, Dr. Chiaravalloti explained. “The 8-session protocol encompasses the three strategies we have determined to have the greatest empirical evidence for treating impaired learning and memory: self-generation, spaced learning and self-testing.”

The researchers will measure the study’s outcomes using three methods — an Assessment of Global Functioning, which examines everyday functioning and quality of life, a Neuropsychological Evaluation to examine objective cognitive performance; and neuroimaging to elucidate the neural mechanisms of STEM. The neuroimaging studies will be conducted at the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation, a research-dedicated facility.

Including the examination of daily life activities as an endpoint is an innovative aspect of the study, according to Dr. Chiaravalloti. “Our main goal is to develop a treatment that improves how individuals function at home, in the workplace, and in their communities.”

“The study includes a six-month follow-up evaluation,” she said, “so we can assess the longer-term efficacy of STEM on the participants’ everyday functioning and their neuropsychological performance. We will also evaluate the impact of booster sessions in maintaining the treatment effect over time. We anticipate that this rigorous protocol will yield Class 1 evidence for the efficacy of STEM treatment for the cognitive impairments of multiple sclerosis. “

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Funded by National Institutes of Health R01HD095915

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities.

For more information on Kessler Foundation’s research, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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