KEY POINTS

  • A new study showed that multiple sclerosis sufferers may benefit from mindfulness training 
  • It improves their processing speed, as well as their ability to regulate negative emotions
  •  The training involves the performance of mental "body scans" 

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who went through mindfulness training for four weeks found their condition improved more compared to those who underwent adaptive cognitive training. According to new research, mindfulness training may benefit MS patients by helping them regulate negative emotions and improving their processing speed.

Encouraging Findings

Dr. Ruchika Prakash, an associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University and the co-author of the research, said their findings are very encouraging. She admitted, however, that their research was a small pilot study, hence the need to replicate findings in other studies. “It is exciting to find a treatment that may be helpful in more than one way for people with multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Prakash noted.

multiple-sclerosis-patients-can-benefit-from-mindfulness-training multiple-sclerosis-patients-can-benefit-from-mindfulness-training Photo: Christian Fregnan - Unsplash

MS is a common neurological illness in young adults. Around one million people in the US are estimated to be affected by the disease. Multiple sclerosis damages the central nervous system and often leads to a host of emotional, physical, and cognitive problems.

The Research

The study conducted by Dr. Prakash and her team involved 61 participants suffering from MS. They were divided into three clusters with one group undergoing four-week mindfulness training and another bunch going through a four-week adaptive cognitive training. The rest were placed in a waitlist control cluster that did nothing during the entire study period but was also treated afterward.

Mindfulness-based training involves giving full attention to present moments in an accepting and non-judgmental manner. During the training, participants were asked to perform mental “body scans” to experience how their bodies felt. Dr. Prakash said that research suggests that 30% to 50% of patients with MS experience some types of psychiatric disorder. “Anything we can do to help them cope is important for their quality of life,” she said.

Managing Emotions

A series of questions were posed to the participants at the beginning and at the end of the study. They were asked whether they agree to questions like “I experience my emotions as overwhelming and out of control” and “When I'm upset, I lose control over my behavior.”

Results revealed that those who were in the mindfulness training group were able to manage their emotions more at the end of the study compared to people in other groups. This included the cluster that underwent adaptive cognitive training. Dr. Prakash said that the results showed mindfulness training helps a lot in making MS patients efficiently deal with their emotions positively and more constructively.