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Current Funded Research > Pennsylvania

Jill Conway, MD
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
NMSS Area: Greater Delaware Valley Chapter
Award: Postdoctoral Fellowship
Mentor: Laura J. Balcer, M.D.
Term/Amount: 8/1/06-7/31/08; $110,428

“Relation of novel outcomes of vision and axonal loss to cognitive impairment in MS” Investigating the relationship between cognitive dysfunction and nerve fiber loss in people with MS.

More than half of the people diagnosed with MS experience some form of cognitive impairment, mainly difficulties with memory, concentration, and complex problem-solving.  These problems can significantly impact quality of life.

During this clinical research fellowship, Jill Conway, MD, is investigating the relationship between cognitive dysfunction and the extent of nerve fiber loss in the nerves that extend from the retina (at the back of the eye) and transmit images to the brain. She will assess people with  MS and controls without MS for cognitive dysfunction using a standard battery of tests that focuses on areas of cognition typically impaired in MS.  All subjects will also undergo visual function testing, including a new visual function test that measures the ability to recognize faces.  These results will be compared with the subjects’ retinal nerve thickness as measured by a new imaging scan called optical coherence tomography (OCT).  OCT provides rapid, non-invasive measurement of nerve fiber loss in the retina.  These results will be compared to determine whether nerve fiber loss in OCT correlates with cognitive dysfunction.

This research will provide insights into the relationship between nerve fiber injury, visual function, and cognition in patients with MS.  If nerve fiber loss measured by OCT predicts cognitive deficits, OCT may allow rapid identification of those most at risk for cognitive dysfunction who would benefit from cognitive testing and intervention.