Mental Coaching Can Boost Multiple Sclerosis Patients' Quality of Life


Patients with multiple sclerosis can use mental visual imaging training to improve wellbeing, according to findings published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) can use mental visual imaging training to improve wellbeing, according to findings published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

Researchers from the University of Strasbourg in France studied 40 MS patients being trained in mental visual imagery programs in order to determine the effects of the program on the patients’ quality of life. Each patient was receiving regular drug therapy and was additionally being evaluated for disease progression throughout the study by clinical examination.

The patients were screened for brain abnormalities using MRI at the beginning of the study to confirm that significant signs of atrophy were acknowledged. The patients were coached in mental visual imagery training surrounding two primary focus points: autobiographical memory, the ability to recall personal details from a specific location and time frame, and episodic future thinking, the ability to imagine personal details as they might happen in the future.

Episodic future thinking additionally contributes to coping skills, goal achievement, implementation of intentions, and sense of personal continuity over time, the researchers said. The researchers said that when either of these capacities are impacted, quality of life may be reduced in MS patients.

“Several functions have been attributed to AM, such as its role in the construction of sense of self temporally extended, the development of new social relationships and the nurturing of existing ones, and a directive function where the past serves as a basis to guide present and future behaviors,” researcher Liliann Manning, PhD, explained in a press release. “Taken together, autobiographical memory constitutes a central process in any individual’s life.”

Patients went through six two hour mental visual imagery session either once or twice per week, depending on the patient’s availability. Through four steps, the patients used mental visual imagery techniques of increasing difficulty. The neuropsychologist present prompted the patients to recall general aspects to more specific ones using a funnel approach for the exercise.

Patients were then split up into three groups for an adapted version of the Autobiographical Interview after baseline measurements were established: the mental visual imagery group, a sham verbal group, and no treatment group. Then, the patients were tasked with completing commentaries about their experience.

Patients who underwent the true mental visual imagery coaching reported more self confidence in life and higher levels of control and vitality, the researchers commented.

“The major finding of this study is that autobiographical memory and episodic future thinking impairment could be efficiently improved by means of a facilitation program and that the use of an mental visual imagery strategy seemed easily integrated and resulted in significant benefits in their daily life functioning,” Manning concluded. “More generally, we hope that this study and its positive outcomes could encourage future investigations in different clinical settings.”

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