Exercise & Brain Health in MS

2014-10-21 21:23:21 | BioPortfolio


The purpose of this study is to learn more about multiple sclerosis (MS). The investigators are studying whether aerobic exercise is better than a stretching program at improving brain health in people with MS. We want to learn:

1. If it is safe and practical for people with MS to participate in an aerobic exercise program with the goal of increasing cardiac fitness. Cardiac fitness is measured with exercise stress tests at the beginning and end of the study.

2. If aerobic exercise improves brain metabolism, a reflection of brain health, more than stretching. Brain metabolism is measured by MRIs at the beginning and end of the study.

There is a 50% chance of being in the aerobic exercise or the stretching program.

There are between 8 and 36 visits to OHSU, depending on the intervention group. The total duration of the study is at most 21 weeks.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Current MS therapies reduce the frequency and severity of MS flare-ups, but do not help MS in later stages of disease characterized by slow progression of disability. One obstacle to developing therapies for progressive aspects of disease is a lack of ability to measure progression and brain repair.

A new MRI technique developed by Bill Rooney, PhD, (co-investigator, OHSU Advanced Imaging Resource Center) looks at brain health by measuring levels of phosphorous. Phosphorous levels are thought to reflect energy stores produced by brain cells. The healthier the brain, the greater the energy stores seen as higher the levels of phosphorous on imaging. Dr. Rooney has shown decreased levels of phosphorous on brain MRIs from people with MS. We propose that therapies that boost brain cell health will lead to an increase in brain cell energy stores and be reflected by an increase in phosphorous levels on MRI spectroscopy.

In order to test whether improvements in brain energy stores can be seen as increased phosphorous levels, we will use a therapy known to improve energy stores in muscles and see if it also does so in the brain. We measure how much aerobic exercise increases energy stores in muscles by measuring oxygen utilization during an exercise stress test. Therefore in this study, we will see if the aerobic exercise that improves muscle energy stores (seen as an increase in oxygen utilization) corresponds to an increase in brain energy stores (seen as an increase in phosphorous levels).

Specific Aim 1. To determine if it is safe and feasible to conduct an aerobic exercise intervention in MS patients to achieve an increase in oxygen utilization by 5-15%.

Hypothesis: An MS cohort undergoing a structured aerobic exercise program will increase their aerobic capacity by 5-15% as measured by oxygen utilization testing and not experience adverse events related to the exercise program.

Specific Aim 2. To determine if brain phosphorous levels by MR spectroscopy before and after an aerobic exercise intervention increases in association with increases in oxygen utilization.

Hypothesis: Aerobic exercise will increase energy stores in both muscles and the brain. Body energy stores will be measured by oxygen utilization testing and brain energy stores by phosphorous levels. We expect that increases in by oxygen utilization after a structured exercise program will be associated with increases in phosphorous levels. We do not expect increases in either by oxygen utilization or phosphorous levels in an MS cohort matched for sex and baseline aerobic capacity that participates in a non-aerobic stretching program of the same duration and intensity.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome is change in brain phosphorous levels by MRI spectroscopy. The secondary outcomes are changes in oxygen utilization levels, walking and balance tests, and changes in cognitive function and energy levels.

Methods: Participants will be enrolled over a 1 year period. Potential subjects will undergo a baseline exercise stress test for oxygen utilization. Participants matched by sex and baseline oxygen utilization level will undergo a baseline MRI spectroscopy study and then be randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise program or a self-guided stretching program. The aerobic exercise program consists of supervised 30 minute sessions of either treadmill or stationary bicycle exercise, 4 days per week for 8 weeks. The self-guided home stretching program consists of 30 minute sessions, 4 days a week for 8 weeks with supervised sessions occurring every 2 weeks. All participants will undergo a final exercise stress test and MRI spectroscopy. Only participants who are matched and assigned to either exercise or stretching groups will undergo MRI testing and receive payment for participation.

Study Design

Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Safety/Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor), Primary Purpose: Treatment


Multiple Sclerosis


Aerobic Exercise, Stretching


Oregon Health & Science University
United States




Oregon Health and Science University

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-10-21T21:23:21-0400

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

A form of multiple sclerosis characterized by a progressive deterioration in neurologic function which is in contrast to the more typical relapsing remitting form. If the clinical course is free of distinct remissions, it is referred to as primary progressive multiple sclerosis. When the progressive decline is punctuated by acute exacerbations, it is referred to as progressive relapsing multiple sclerosis. The term secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is used when relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis evolves into the chronic progressive form. (From Ann Neurol 1994;36 Suppl:S73-S79; Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, pp903-914)

Controlled physical activity, more strenuous than at rest, which is performed in order to allow assessment of physiological functions, particularly cardiovascular and pulmonary, but also aerobic capacity. Maximal (most intense) exercise is usually required but submaximal exercise is also used. The intensity of exercise is often graded, using criteria such as rate of work done, oxygen consumption, and heart rate.

A non-glycosylated form of interferon beta-1 that has a serine at position 17. It is used in the treatment of both RELAPSING-REMITTING MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS and CHRONIC PROGRESSIVE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

An autoimmune disorder mainly affecting young adults and characterized by destruction of myelin in the central nervous system. Pathologic findings include multiple sharply demarcated areas of demyelination throughout the white matter of the central nervous system. Clinical manifestations include visual loss, extra-ocular movement disorders, paresthesias, loss of sensation, weakness, dysarthria, spasticity, ataxia, and bladder dysfunction. The usual pattern is one of recurrent attacks followed by partial recovery (see MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, RELAPSING-REMITTING), but acute fulminating and chronic progressive forms (see MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, CHRONIC PROGRESSIVE) also occur. (Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, p903)

Alternating sets of exercise that work out different muscle groups and that also alternate between aerobic and anaerobic exercises, which, when combined together, offer an overall program to improve strength, stamina, balance, or functioning.

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