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Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Research Program

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Overview | Research Projects | Training Programs | Team | Contact


Our research program focuses on projects that seek to understand and optimize daily function, quality of life and health equity for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and related conditions, as well as their families, caregivers and support networks. Our projects include research on cognitive function (e.g., thinking, memory), emotional function (e.g., mood and stress), health behaviors (e.g., self-management of sleep, fatigue, physical activity) and social determinants of health (e.g., healthcare access, socioeconomic status, employment) that affect quality of life in MS. Our work may also include individuals with other inflammatory conditions that affect the central nervous system, including: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), neuromyelitis optica (NMO), transverse myelitis (TM) and stiff person syndrome (SPS).

Our team is particularly committed to research that:

  • Enhances accessibility of assessments and interventions for individuals with MS and related conditions
  • Seeks to understand the interaction of an individuals' experience with MS in the context of their social systems (e.g., home, work, relationships)
  • Engages historically underserved and underrepresented people in the MS community and other disability communities

We closely collaborate with partners in the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity.

Research Projects

  • Principal Investigator: Jagriti “Jackie” Bhattarai, Ph.D.

    Funding sources: This research study is supported by funding from the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions (HCHDS), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Grant No.: U54MD000214
    Study No.: IRB00193860

    Study information: This research aims to help understand how health literacy and quality of patient-provider communication impact patient engagement in health care in African-Americans/blacks and Caucasians/whites with multiple sclerosis (MS). Using a mixed-method research design, we plan to achieve the following goals:

    • Determine the main effects of neighborhood and race, and their interaction, on health literacy in African-Americans/blacks and Caucasians/whites with MS.
    • Determine the main effect of neighborhood and race, and their interaction, on patient-provider communication among African-Americans/blacks and Caucasians/whites with MS.
    • Determine the degree to which health literacy and patient-provider communication mediate the relationships between neighborhood and race and patient engagement in medical care.

    We expect the results of this pilot study to inform future grant proposals focusing on the development of empirically supported interventions to enhance patient engagement through greater health literacy and improved patient-provider communication among individuals with MS.

    Recruitment and participation information: This study will recruit African-American/black and Caucasian/white individuals with MS. Participation involves completion of an online battery of quantitative assessments on patient engagement in health care, patient-provider communication and health literacy. A subset of participants from the overall sample will also attend a one-hour qualitative in-depth, in-person interview. Those who complete the online battery of quantitative assessments will receive $15 and those who complete the in-person interview will receive a $50 incentive. Official recruitment information will be announced in spring 2019.

    For more information about the study, please contact [email protected].

  • Principal Investigator: Meghan Beier, Ph.D.

    Funding source: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

    Grant # PP-1609-25972

    Study information: Neurocognitive dysfunction affects more than 50 percent of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and contributes to substantial decrements in quality of life. Traditional in-person cognitive batteries are validated for assessing neuropsychological dysfunction. However, reliance on in-person assessment creates barriers for both clinical patients and research participants, especially individuals who are limited in their physical mobility, access to transportation, and/or geographical proximity to specialty providers and clinics. The Many Brains Project (MBP), a validated, open-source, web-based assessment battery, offers an alternative that eliminates the barriers of in-person assessments. This pilot study seeks to investigate the discriminant validity and reliability of the Many Brains Project (MBP) assessment against traditional test batteries recommended for individuals with MS

    Recruitment and participation information: This study seeks to enroll both individuals with multiple sclerosis and healthy controls. Recruitment will begin in August 2017. Participation involves one in-person appointment where participants will complete a battery of traditional and web-based cognitive tests, as well as a series of quality of life questionnaires. Enrolled participants will also be asked to complete the web-based cognitive assessment a second time, at home, three weeks after the in-person assessment.

    For more information about the study, please contact: [email protected]

  • Principal Investigator: Abbey Hughes, Ph.D.

    Funding Source: National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    Study Information: The goal of this study is to develop an innovative, effective and accessible intervention for treating sleep disturbance in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Sleep disturbance is a significant health problem affecting an astounding 54–67 percent of people with MS. Sleep disturbance is one the primary contributors to fatigue, neuropsychological dysfunction, pain, depression and diminished quality of life in MS. Although research supports cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as the gold standard treatment for sleep disturbance, it has yet to be adapted and tested in MS. Thus, the objective of this five-year research project is to develop and evaluate the preliminary effects of an innovative, internet-delivered cognitive behavioral intervention for sleep disturbance in MS.

    Recruitment and Participation Information: This study will recruit individuals with MS who report clinically significant insomnia (difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep). Participants will complete a series of online and phone-based assessments and will participate in an online self-guided program to learn strategies for improving sleep. This intervention is currently under development. Official recruitment information will be announced in fall 2017.

  • In close collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurology Multiple Sclerosis Center, we are also involved in the following studies and initiatives:

    Intranasal Insulin for Improving Cognitive Function in Multiple Sclerosis
    Principal Investigators: Ellen Mowry, M.D., and Scott Newsome, D.O.
    Primary objective: to evaluate the safety and tolerability of intranasal insulin in people with multiple sclerosis.
    Secondary objective: to evaluate if intranasal insulin improves memory and learning in people with MS, as assessed by various neuropsychological tests. This research is being done because cognitive impairment is common in and devastating to people with MS. MS-related cognitive impairment is associated with lowered quality of life, loss of employment, impaired social relationships, compromised driving safety, and reduced adherence to treatment. Insulin is critical with helping to control brain function and metabolism and has been shown to improve memory and learning in subjects with neurological diseases.

    MS PATHS: MS Partners Advancing Technology and Health Solutions
    Site Principal Investigator: Ellen Mowry, M.D.

    Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Center of Excellence for Multiple Sclerosis

Training Programs

The MSRP is also committed to training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in rehabilitation and MS-related research. Our current training programs:


Our program also has two doctoral level externs.


Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Research Program
Church Professional Building
98 N. Broadway, 4th floor, Suite 413
Baltimore, MD 21231

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