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Stress management prevents Multiple Sclerosis brain lesions
For those suffering from the autoimmune disorder multiple sclerosis, life alternates between almost symptomless periods of time and episodes of intense neurological problems that can result in anything from painful muscle spasms, loss of vision or problems moving arms and legs.
These “flare-ups” are often preceded by brain lesions, scars that form in the nervous system and destroy myelin sheath – material that surrounds neurons responsible for carrying electrical signals.  By managing the development of these scars, patients with MS can keep better control their episodes.
And now, new research has shown that a weekly stress management program was very effective in preventing the development of new lesions, pointing toward possibly supplemental therapy that could be used with existing MS treatments.
The study, published in an issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, is part of ongoing research from principal investigator David Mohr, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg.  A previous study of Mohr’s involved following MS patients receiving MRIs and the stressful events in their lives; stress was found to be a good predictor of the development of brain lesions.
 “We’ve been able to show that stress is related to the development of new lesions and exacerbations of MS.” Dr. Mohr says. 
According to Mohr, these most recent findings are the first to show that counseling and psychotherapy affect brain lesion development.  The study, conducted over a 24-week period, randomly assigned 121 MS patients to one of two groups – half receiving stress management therapy in 16 sessions and the others assigned to a control group. The researchers tracked the development of the patients’ lesions by giving them MRIs every two months.  The imaging helped to show if inflammation in the brain had occurred.
When people have exacerbations, it’s basically an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath on the neuron -- “With the stress management group, we saw significant reductions in both [kinds of lesions],” Mohr said.  “In one kind of lesion 77 percent of the patients remained disease-free during the treatment compared to 55 percent in control.  For a second type, 70 percent remained free compared to 43 percent in the control.  Those are effects sizes that are seen in pharmaceutical treatment of MS.”
In order to better understand just how effective stress management can be, Mohr hopes for a much longer, more extensive clinical trial.  Even if the results are consistent with these findings, Mohr noted that stress management therapy is already very beneficial for MS patients.

Dr. Iverson's Comment
As discussed in another article regarding pain and the brain in this month’s top stories, the brain is quite capable of inducing or eliminating symptoms and conditions. To think that something we call “stress” can induce a brain lesion, a physical pathology, is amazing to me. Every person sees a stressful event as different. What one person sees as stressful another may see as exciting, therefore it is our perception or “our creation” that induces health or illness within ourselves. 
Please take consideration of how many of yours or family health conditions could be associated with the “perception” of stress.
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