A new study has shown that training patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS) in mental visual imagery can improve their autobiographical memory (AM) and episodic future thinking (EFT). Findings from the study are published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

Researchers from the University of Strasbourg enrolled 40 patients for the MVI program to assess patients’ AM/EFT improvement based on the ability to mentally construct scenes and pay close attention to details in the mind’s eye. All patients were receiving drug therapy and were being monitored for disease progression through clinical exams. Brain abnormalities were assessed through MRIs to confirm presence of atrophy.

Patients’ AM and EFT were evaluated using an adapted version of the Autobiographical Interview. Then patients were separated into three groups: experimental group (MVI treatment), verbal control group (sham verbal treatment), and stability group (no treatment). Study participants had six two-hour MVI sessions once or twice per week. The program consisted of mental visualization activities with increasing difficulty in four steps. The attending neuropsychologist provided continuous guidance by probing the patient to recall general and detailed aspects, a method referred to as “funnel-approach.”

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Researchers found that patient commentaries showed a more general feeling of self-confidence in life and higher levels of control and vitality. Liliann Manning, PhD, added that “the use of an MVI strategy seemed easily integrated and resulted in significant benefits in their daily life functioning.” Dr. Manning and her team hope that the study findings can encourage more research in the future in various clinical settings.


  1. Ernst A et al. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2015; doi:10.3233/RNN-140461. 

This article originally appeared on MPR