Modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT) Improves New Learning and Memory in MS

According to a study by Chiaravalloti and colleagues from the Kessler Foundation,  behavioral interventions can have a positive effect on brain function in people with cognitive disability caused by MS. Deficits in new learning and memory are common in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), though few studies have examined the efficacy of memory retraining in MS. Previous research conducted in Chiaravalloti’s laboratory has demonstrated that the modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT) significantly improves new learning and memory in MS.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to document brain activation patterns before and after memory retraining, the double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial (N=16), demonstrated that after treatment, greater activation was evident in the treatment group (N=8) during performance of a memory task within a widespread cortical network involving frontal, parietal, precuneus, and parahippocampal regions, where all participants in the treatment group showed increased activation in frontal and temporal regions. However, the control group (N=8) showed no significant changes in cerebral activation at follow-up.”This demonstrates that an effective cognitive rehabilitation protocol can lead to changes in the way the brain is actually processing information” says Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, Director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, and lead author of the study.

Increased activation in the right middle frontal gyrus and improved memory performance post-treatment, likely reflects increased use of strategies taught during treatment when learning new information. Study results indicate that a behavioral memory intervention (e.g. mSMT) can show significant changes in the brain, and has validity for integration into clinical practice.


  1. Chiaravalloti ND, Wylie G, Leavitt V, DeLuca J. Increased cerebral activation after behavioral treatment for memory deficits in MS. J Neurol.2012 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 22237819.
  2. No author cited. Greater brain activation after cognitive rehabilitation for MS. website.­ /releases/2012/01/120117145059.htm Posted January 17, 2012. Accessed January 19, 2012.