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A 3-year study currently being conducted at Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU), Augusta, Ga, seeks to establish accurate testing protocol to determine driving fitness in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS).According to a recent news release, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has presented Abiodun Akinwuntan, (pictured right) interim associate dean for research in the GHSU College of Allied Health Sciences, with a $360,000 grant to fund phase one of a double-site study.

The release notes that recruitment is currently under way for participants at the GHSU Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Augusta and at the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at the Shepherd Center, Atlanta. Researchers underscore the importance of the study, noting that the accident rate for drivers with MS is estimated to be three times higher than that of similarly aged healthy individuals. The study aims to validate an earlier study encompassing relapsing-remitting MS, which suggest five specific fitness-to-drive tests could predict pass or fail outcomes on a road test with 91% accuracy.

To accomplish this, researchers note that the test will include patients with all four types of MS and expand the number of participants to 180 and narrowing participation to participants who score between 3 and 7 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale. “Studies have shown that typically those who score below 2.5 are relatively good drivers and those above 7 are not fit to drive. So we are concentrating on those people in the middle who are starting to experience deficits that would affect their driving,” Akinwuntan says.

The release reports that phase-one study participants will be tested for up to 4 hours over 2 days. The supplemental training study, the second phase of the study, will focus on drivers’ training and run concurrent with the phase one.

Researchers note that the study will compare driving simulation training with Wii-based exercise training to determine the more effective treatment.

“The earlier drivers incorporate intervention training, the longer they will be able to stay on the road and maintain independence,” Akinwuntan adds. [Source: Georgia Health Sciences University]