New clinical study will investigate cognitive impairment in people with Multiple Sclerosis using brain-monitoring technology.

Dublin, 17th December 2019: FutureNeuro, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases, has just announced that it will undertake research in the area of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as part of a clinical study.  The study is being co-funded by FutureNeuro and Merck, a global science and technology company and led by Professor Orla Hardiman in Trinity College Dublin.

The multidisciplinary study will investigate how often and, to what extent, people with MS are affected by cognitive impairment, meaning they have trouble learning new things, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life. The study will then determine the parts of brain activity that contribute to cognitive impairment in MS using state of the art electroencephalogram (EEG) brain monitoring technologies.

“Cognitive and behavioural change are important but understudied aspects of Multiple Sclerosis” said Professor of Neurology Orla Hardiman, FutureNeuro Principal Investigator and Head of the Academic Unit of Neurology at Trinity College Dublin

“This study will seek to provide measurable features of cognitive and behavioural change that could be incorporated into future clinical trials.”

Current methods for accurately measuring the extent of any cognitive impairment requires screening with short questionnaires, followed by specialised testing, performed by a trained psychologist. 

This study will utilise these standard tests and then employ new EEG technologies, developed Prof. Hardiman’s group at Trinity that analyse the complex waveforms within the brain and then map any changes to the person’s cognitive functions.

Belinda Byrne, Merck UK & Ireland Medical Director, said: “Merck is committed to finding solutions for patients’ unmet medical needs and we are delighted to be co-funding this important study which will assess over 600 people with MS using novel and exciting new technologies to study the cognitive change in neurological disease.”

The study is taking place at Trinity, in association with clinicians at  Beaumont and St. Vincent’s Hospitals. It will run until 2022 and will begin recruiting suitable participants immediately.

Speaking about the impact of this study for people with MS, Ava Battles, CEO of MS Ireland said:

MS Ireland welcomes this innovative and very exciting study. Though our Nationwide Community based Case Work service and our National Respite service MS Ireland is very conscious of the impact of cognitive decline for people with MS but also on family members and work colleagues. Cognitive deficit can be a devastating symptom and remains one of the most troublesome of the invisible symptoms affecting many people with MS. It is very timely that a study such as this shines a light on this much understudied aspect of living with MS.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, welcomed the study, saying:

“Ireland alone has over 800,000 people living with a neurological condition. This is a major societal challenge and it is crucial that we strive to understand how and why neurological disorders develop. I congratulate FutureNeuro on expanding its research portfolio to now include MS. Each area of study provides another building block and brings us closer to positively impacting the lives of those living with neurological conditions.”

FutureNeuro, which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, aims to deliver advances in understanding disease initiation and progress. As a result of this understanding, the organisation’s aim is that new technologies and solutions for the treatment, diagnosis and monitoring of chronic and rare neurological diseases will be developed.