New study reveals method of brain stimulation may help reduce fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers used tDCS stimulation on patients with Multiple Sclerosis and discovered a six-point drop on a 32-point scale measuring fatigue severity.

The discovery may lead to more ways that technology can help reduce the symptom of fatigue in those with MS.

Speaking on the discovery, Lauren Krupp, MD, senior study author said:

“Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms affecting quality of life for MS patients and practitioners have lacked good treatment options. However, the positive results from our study suggest that tDCS might offer benefit in fatigue reduction. The next step is to see if these benefits can be replicated and sustained in larger studies. But our initial findings are very promising.”

Around 75% of those with MS suggest fatigue is their most disabling symptom. In attempt to reduce the symptom, medication used for conditions such as narcolepsy have been used – to no avail.

The study was undertaken by NYU Langone researchers.

The scientists directed low-amplitude electrical current directly through the electrodes on the scalp as part of a headset. They targeted the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, confirmed to be safe and thought to play a major role in fatigue and cognitive symptoms according to external research. 

The control group consisted of 27 people with MS. The patients were randomised and received either a tDCS or a placebo treatment whilst playing a cognitive training game. The study took place over 20-minute sessions, five day a week.

After 20 sessions each participant reported their level of fatigue on the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information Systems (PROMIS). When compared to the participants in the placebo group, those who experienced tDCS reported a 5.6-point drop in their fatigue levels whilst the placebo group saw a 0.9-point increase in fatigue.

The findings suggest that the longer the treatment continues for, the greater the decrease in fatigue. Furthermore, the study also suggests that participants with the highest levels of fatigue at the start of the study were the ones who experienced the greatest benefits.

Lead study author Leigh Charvet, PhD, associate professor of neurology and director of MS research at NYU Langone said:

“These data are a hopeful sign that we can use tDCS to help patients with MS manage their fatigue, and that continuing the treatment may show even better results. Importantly, tDCS can be delivered remotely to patients at home, offering a practical option for patients, especially those with travel limitations and MS-related disability.”

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