Using a nutrition intervention to improve cognitive symptoms in MS

Terry Purton

University of Tasmania

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Scholarship | 2022 | Investigator Led Research |


Cognitive dysfunction is common in people with MS and can impact significantly on everyday functioning and quality of life. Recent studies have also found changes in the gut bacteria (called the gut microbiome) of people with MS. Importantly, gut bacteria are linked with inflammatory processes, the brain’s kynurenine pathway (a key regulator of the immune response) and resultant brain cell death. It is therefore probable that an imbalance in gut bacteria may underly the changes in cognition that occur in MS.

This research will investigate the effects of consuming probiotics on cognitive symptoms, inflammatory markers along the kynurenine pathway and on gut bacteria in people with MS. It will also examine the extent to which inflammatory markers along the kynurenine pathway are associated with cognitive dysfunction and cognitive changes over time.

The research outcomes are likely to lead to improved clinical care, patient health and quality of life, as well as reduced economic and health burden. The research outcomes will also direct future research examining the gut-brain connection.

Progress to Date

In the current phase of Terry Purton’s research, the team has yet to fully analyse the outcomes of both the supporting and intervention studies. However, the recruitment of 27 participants (out of the original 52) for the supporting study and 28 for the intervention study has been a great success for Terry and her team. These numbers are crucial for their in-depth, 4 to 5-year longitudinal examination of functional changes over time, linked to key biomarkers (biological signs).

The team anticipates significant progress in the next year. The supporting study has finished participant recruitment, behavioural data compilation, and blood sample processing for marker analysis, set for publication. Meanwhile, for the intervention study, all baseline assessments are complete, and the team will await follow-up assessments for most participants, targeting completion by the end of 2023.

Updated: 31 March 2023

Updated: 14 February, 2022

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


Grant Awarded

  • Postgraduate Scholarship

Total Funding

  • $70,000


  • 2 years

Funding Partner

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Using a nutrition intervention to improve cognitive symptoms in MS