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MS and fatigue - can training the brain help?

Finding treatments to help people with MS manage fatigue and the impact it has on their life

Authors Dr Alicia Hughes & Dominic Murrell

 

The burden of fatigue

81% of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience fatigue (1). In an interview study with people with MS, one woman described fatigue as, “‘it puts my body in a situation where I feel like I’m shutting down. Like I’m just stuck in concrete and can’t move” (2). This type of fatigue is different to normal tiredness and isn’t usually relieved by sleep or rest (3).

Fatigue can have a big impact on people’s lives. Research shows that fatigue in MS is associated with:

  • poorer quality of life (4, 6)
  • increased depression (4, 6)
  • increased anxiety (4, 6)
  • poor cognition (4, 6)
  • poor sleep quality (4, 6)

Developing treatments to help manage fatigue is important not only to alleviate the symptom but to improve overall quality of life. In collaboration with people with MS, families and healthcare professionals, the MS society has identified fatigue as a top research priority (5).

The Flexible Brain Training (FLEX) project is an online program developed by researchers at King’s College London and people with MS. FLEX is designed to help people with MS manage the impact of fatigue on their lives though a type of brain training.

What is flexible brain training and how might it help?

Evidence shows that fatigue affects areas of our brain which are involved in processing information (6). For example, you might notice when you’re fatigued it’s difficult to focus or take in new information. To get around this our brains make mental short-cuts, for example skim reading.

By continually using these short-cuts our brain gets used to following the same path and the short-cuts can become automatic. These automatic short-cuts can result in our brains becoming less flexible over time. So, rather than taking in new information and adapting to environmental cues, our brain relies on the same old paths it is used to taking.

The FLEX project is series of self-guided, online sessions over a period of 3 weeks, designed to increase brain flexibility through repeated practice. 

The FLEX project will assess whether we can

  1. change how the brain deals with or processes information and
  2. whether training the brain in more flexible processing is helpful for people with fatigue.

Get involved

We are now testing the FLEX program to see if it is helpful for people with MS.

We are recruiting people with MS who experience fatigue to take part. Participation involves

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To find out more please register your interest on the study website: www.flexproject.co.uk Picture2.png Picture3.png

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