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“Mindfulness” Meditation Improves Emotional Health and Thinking Abilities in People with MS, Says New Society-Funded Study

May 13, 2020

In a pilot study of 61 people with MS, researchers found that a four-week “mindfulness” (meditation)-based attention training program reduced difficulties in modulating emotions and improved thinking abilities better than either a computer-based cognitive training program or no treatment. The study was funded by the National MS Society to provide scientific evidence to support lifestyle, behavioral, and psychosocial approaches for promoting wellness in people living with MS.
  • MS can cause emotional changes, such as depression and anxiety, and also cognitive changes, such as problems with memory, thought processing speeds and others. These symptoms can reduce individuals’ quality of life, and researchers have been seeking better ways to address these issues.
  • Mindfulness is a form of meditation aimed at changing an individual’s perception and creating awareness and acceptance of moment-to-moment experiences, with the goal of reducing reactions that may worsen pain or emotional distress related to health-related changes.
  • In this study, both training groups met for two hours a week for four weeks, supplemented with 40 minutes of practice at home on the other six days of the week. The computer-based cognitive training program included training in processing speed, attention, executive function, and working memory. The mindfulness training program involved breath awareness, body scan, and sitting meditation practices, with a particular emphasis on thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
  • After the four-week program, those in the mindfulness group showed improvements in both measures of emotional and cognitive health.
  • Get information on meditation for MS. Get resources related to wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This study was funded by a National MS Society Pilot Research Award to Ruchika Prakash, PhD. Dr. Prakash is offering free mindfulness webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mindfulness Training for Emotion Dysregulation in MS: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial” and “Effects of 4-Week Mindfulness Training Versus Adaptive Cognitive Training on Processing Speed and Working Memory in MS” were published by Brittney Schirda, Heena R. Manglani, Dr. Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, and colleagues at The Ohio State University in the journals Rehabilitation Psychology and Neuropsychology, respectively.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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