First national research study to use salsa dancing to improve physical activity for people with multiple sclerosis to launch in Providence
WARWICK, R.I., Oct. 9, 2014 -- A Rhode Island neurologist is launching a groundbreaking research study using salsa dancing with the goal of improving overall physical activity and locomotion in people living with multiple sclerosis. This marks the first time a national research study funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has connected dancing and MS.
The study’s potential benefits include balance improvement, social engagement, increased activity, and meeting the challenge of progressing each week as dancing builds upon what has been taught, according to Dr. Albert Lo, who is conducting the study. Dr. Lo is a Brown University Associate Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Epidemiology and an associate director of the Center of Excellence for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology at the Providence VA Medical Center, where the study will be held. Dr. Lo, who has been conducting research on gait training for some time, said simply walking on a treadmill, although medically beneficial, can be uninteresting for many people. He wanted to try something that was potentially fun and a greater challenge to the nervous system, such as partnered dance. Dance occurs in three dimensions and the ability to concentrate on particular steps, while moving in space among other couples, will be much more of a challenge than walking in a straight line and it will require mind-body awareness.
“To date this is the only clinical research study to examine dance for people with MS so it is a unique opportunity for people with MS to be a part of an important study while also potentially improving their overall wellbeing while learning how to dance from a professional instructor,” said Dr. Lo.
A minimum of 70 participants with MS are needed for the study. No dance experience is necessary and participants do not need to have a dance partner. Participants, at a minimum, need to be able to do the front-to-back and side-to-side movements that salsa dancing entails. Those interested will be screened to see if they are appropriate for the study. The study will be held for 12 weeks with one-hour sessions held twice a week (for a total of 24 sessions) at the Providence VA Medical Center. There is no cost to participate.
The research dance instructor was a nationally competitive dancer in ballroom and Latin dance who has experience teaching dance to people with disabilities. Partners will rotate at the sessions with everyone learning how to lead and how to follow.
The study builds upon a successful eight-week pilot study Dr. Lo conducted last year about dance and MS. In that study, Dr. Lo said participants experienced noticeable improvement on many fronts, from weight loss to improved balance and increased activity. People interested in participating should register as soon as possible.
“Because this is a research study and not an open program, anyone who is interested will have to let us know now, because once we have identified those who are interested, the study will be closed for any further enrollment. We don’t have plans to offer it again in the new future,” Dr. Lo said.
Dr. Lo hopes the research study, when completed, if it is shown to be safe and effective, will be translated into a program that the National MS Society can share with clients nationwide.
To be considered for the study, please contact the research staff, Yen Tran at 401.273.7100 x6257 or Kasey Morlé at 401.273.7100 x6176.