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Brain reserve and cognitive reserve have long-term protective effect against cognitive decline in MS

Study confirms prior research and shows that effects persist for years.

, PhD, lead author of the article, and , PhD, are at . Co-authors are from the Manhattan Memory Center, New York, NY, the , Milan, Italy, and the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Neurology is the official journal of the . Dr. Sumowski presented these findings at the AAN 2014 conference in Philadelphia.

“Our research aims to answer these questions,” explained Dr. DeLuca. “Why do some people with MS experience disabling symptoms of , while others maintain their cognitive abilities despite neuroimaging evidence of significant disease progression? Can the theories of brain reserve and cognitive reserve explain this dichotomy? Can we identify predictors of ?”

In this study, memory, cognitive efficiency, vocabulary (a measure of intellectual enrichment/cognitive reserve), brain volume (a measure of brain reserve), and disease progression on MRI, were evaluated in 40 patients with MS at baseline and at 4.5-year followup. After controlling for disease progression, scientists looked at the impact of brain volume and intellectual enrichment on cognitive decline.

Results supported the protective effects of brain reserve and cognitive reserve,” noted Dr. Sumowski. “Patients with greater intellectual enrichment experienced lesser degrees of cognitive decline. Those with greater brain reserve showed a protective effect for cognitive efficiency. This study not only confirms these protective effects of brain and cognitive reserve, it shows that these beneficial effects persist for years.”


Dr. Sumowski is a research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, under the directorship of Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD. John DeLuca, PhD, is senior VP of Research & Training at Kessler Foundation. Drs. Sumowski and DeLuca are on the faculty of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

Study partially supported by a grant from the Ministry of Science, Republic of Serbia (Project number: 175031). Dr. Sumowski was funded in part by the NIH (R00 HD060765).

Brain reserve and cognitive reserve protect against cognitive decline over 4.5 years in MS. Sumowski JF, Rocca MA, Leavitt VM, Dackovic J, Mesaros S, Drulovic J, Deluca J, Filippi M. Neurology. 2014 Apr 18. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000433 [Epub ahead of print].

Kessler Foundation