BrainHealth Neuroscientist Wins Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Study

Dr. Bart Rypma

Dr. Bart Rypma

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has awarded Dr. Bart Rypma, principal investigator at the Center for BrainHealth, more than $490,000 to investigate how changes in brain blood flow impact cognition for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS).

“Multiple sclerosis affects over 2.3 million people worldwide, and those diagnosed often complain of an overall slowing of thought,” said Rypma, Meadows Foundation Chair and associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “Still, very little is known about what changes occur in the brain that cause cognitive slowing in MS. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine cerebral blood flow and neural metabolic rate, we hope to pinpoint the brain systems responsible.”

As part of the study, 80 participants with MS will undergo structural and functional brain imaging and neuropsychological evaluation. Researchers will gather a unique set of measurements never before collected in a single group of MS patients using the latest imaging techniques.

Brain imaging will allow researchers to observe neural metabolic rate, or where oxygen is delivered within the brain, how much oxygen those cells consume and how changes to those factors could lead to cognitive slowing. Researchers will also assess which systems in the brain — visual, motor or executive — most account for cognitive slowing.

The recently awarded grant builds upon Rypma’s previous research on disconnections in brain networks and the cognitive effects of MS.

“Cognitive changes affect at least one half or more of people with MS,” said Dr. Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the society. “Dr. Rypma’s study explores a biological basis that may help to explain these changes. This work can propel the knowledge necessary to provide everyday solutions for the cognitive problems experienced by people with MS.”

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