Up to 65% of people with MS experience changes in thinking functions such as memory, problem solving and the speed of which they can think. These changes can dramatically effect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks and maintain employment.
At the moment, there is limited ability to measure and detect these changes in a person with MS, and the tests that are available are often time consuming. During his PhD, Mr Daniel Merlo, aims to use some brief, web based, computerised tests to look for changes in these thinking functions in people with MS. He will also investigate what factors (such as brain size, employment and education level) impact thinking functions.
Web based services have the advantage of reaching people in rural areas and those with limited mobility. This study will provide some insight into the decline in mental abilities in people with MS, and could be implemented into clinical practice to help neurologists and people with MS determine their course of treatment.
Mr Merlo is investigating and validating a computerised test that monitors people with MS for changes in memory and speed-of-thinking. He is also investigating factors that impact these over a 3 year period including medication use, brain volume, employment and education level. Mr Merlo has made excellent progress, with 721 participants enrolled in the test and having completed baseline testing. Approximately 90% of these participants remained in the testing cohort after 12 months.
In preliminary findings, Mr Merlo found a group of participants who got worse at the computerised test over time. He is currently comparing the results to commonly used cognitive measurement tools used in clinical practice. He is also in the process of looking at the association of these thinking changes with the rates of relapse, brain volume and whether people were on a medication for their MS.
It is hoped that this study will provide further information on the declining cognitive ability in people with MS and help with treatment options.
Mr Merlo has presented his research findings at national and international conferences and was successful in receiving funding from Novartis Australia which has funded study coordinator support at each clinical study site. He is also preparing a number of scientific manuscripts for submission.
Updated: 31 March 2019
Updated: 03 January, 2018