Kessler Foundation researcher receives grant for study on emotional processing intervention in MS

Helen Genova, PhD, Assistant Director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, has been awarded a $44,000 grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The grant funds her research on emotional processing deficits in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune degenerative disease of the central nervous system associated with significant behavioral and emotional sequelae.

Recent research suggests that a significant number of individuals with MS have difficulty with emotional processing, specifically, in recognizing the emotions of others through facial expressions. These impairments often lead to issues in social functioning and interpersonal relationships. Dr. Genova will examine the effects of an intervention consisting of a computerized program aimed at improving facial affect recognition in individuals with MS, and interactive training that uses examples of the individual's own emotional experiences.

"We know that the proposed intervention has been effective in autism, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury and in our own pilot data in people with MS," remarked Dr. Genova. "We predict that following the treatment, neuroimaging will show increased activation in regions of the brain critical for facial affect recognition, correlating with the effects of the intervention. These data will enable us to document the beneficial effect of this intervention for this population and others."

This is the first study to apply a treatment that has been shown to be successful in other populations to individuals with MS. This project may provide important evidence showing that this strategy can be effective for improving social functioning in the community, workplace, and at home, and enhance quality of life for people with MS.

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