CHICAGO, July 13 (UPI) -- Patients with multiple sclerosis who participated in a weekly stress management program developed fewer new brain lesions, U.S. researchers said.
David Mohr, principal investigator of the study and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said brain lesions in MS often precede flare-ups of symptoms such as loss of vision or use of limbs or pain.
"This is the first time counseling or psychotherapy has been shown to affect the development of new brain lesions," Mohr said in a statement. "In MS the prevention of new brain lesions is an important marker used to judge how effective medications are. The new finding is an important step and the strongest evidence we have to date that stress is involved in MS."
In the national clinical trial, 121 patients were randomized to receive stress management therapy for MS or be in a control group.
Those in the therapy group received 16 sessions over a 24-week period during which they were taught coping skills to enhance their ability to prevent stressful events from occurring and to improve their capacity to manage their responses to stressful events that did arise. They received a 24-week post-treatment follow-up.
Two-thirds of the patients were women, who have a higher incidence than men of MS.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, found brain neuroimaging showed the stress management therapy reduced two types of new brain lesions common in multiple sclerosis.
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