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Wake-up pilot study for patients with multiple sclerosis and fatigue: How mindfulness can help?

Gisa Schluh

Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, University Hospital Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

E-mail : aa

DOI: 10.15761/NNS.1000103

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Multiple sclerosis, fatigue, mindfulness, quality of life, rehabilitation, self-efficacy


60-90% of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients suffer from a pathological loss of physical and cognitive energy, called Fatigue which is one of the most debilitating symptoms for patients after stroke, traumatic brain injury and with multiple sclerosis [1]. This symptom can lead to disability and unemployment of patients, many of them quite young of age. Yet effective treatments are lacking, suggesting a pressing need for a better understanding of its aetiology and effective interventions.

Mindfulness-based interventions demonstrated promising results for fatigue symptom relief [2,3]

We performed a mindfulness training in the University Hospital in Freiburg for patients with relapse-remitting or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis suffering from MS-related fatigue and reduced attentional capacities to explore its potential and evaluate the effectiveness of such a program.

Pilot study

Twenty-three (23) patients participated in the study and data of 21 patients were included in the evaluation, range of age was 21-62, 4 males, 17 female patients, disease duration was 2-28 years, patients with other biological reasons for fatigue (e.g. anaemia or hypothyreosis) and patients with severe depression or other psychiatric diseases were excluded.

Main outcome measures:

1) d2-R attentional capacity test [4]

2) Fatigue Severity Score [5]


The d2-R was done twice with each patient before start of the mindfulness training, an exercise effect could be excluded. The analysis of variance showed that attentional skills improved significantly after the training. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test showed that patients’ subjective sense of fatigue severity was significantly reduced after the training.


The mindfulness training was done over 6 weeks in groups of 5-6 patients with weekly sessions of 1.5 hours (plus homework). The standardized mindfulness-based stress reduction program of J. Kabat-Zinn [6] focuses on body perceptions. We adapted the training to the special needs and limited capacities of patients with multiple sclerosis and secondly focused on attentional skills.

Each training session had three components:

a) Mindfulness time (1 hour): Patients were taught the idea of mindfulness in theory and given simple exercises to practice. They were encouraged to be aware of all their thoughts, feelings and body sensations cultivating acceptance toward them rather than react impulsively, e.g. think about and complain endlessly about them.

b) Working time (20 minutes): Patients were challenged to accomplish cognitive tasks (text comprehension, calculating, text production). They were given support to supervise their working technique, working load and working speed themselves.

c) Sharing time (10 minutes): time for appraisal, discussion and sharing experiences


We observed that when working, Fatigue patients typically tried to compensate the loss of energy with increased (cognitive) efforts, often making their condition worse, in terms of maladaptive coping [7]. The more they were able to accept and stay in tune with their personal level and limit of energy and adjust their personal ambitions and performance to it, the less they felt exhausted, helpless or frustrated, in terms of adaptive coping. The more they felt in control with a good sense of self-efficacy, the better they were able to accomplish the cognitive task at hand and to learn new information.


Yes, mindfulness can reduce fatigue and improve attentional skills. But this is not a curative treatment. Patients need to be ready to learn and practice every day. This intervention is best to be applied in the context of rehabilitative medicine.


  1. Hufschmidt A, Lücking C, Rauer S (2013) Neurologie compact. Thieme Verlag Stuttgart 6. Auflage
  2. Grossman P, Kappos L, Gensicke H, D'Souza M, Mohr DC, et al. (2010) MS quality of life, depression and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: a randomized trial. Neurology 75:1141-1149. [Crossref]
  3. Ulrichsen KM, Kaufmann T, Dørum ES, Kolskår KK, Richard G, et al. (2016) Clinical utility of a mindfulness training in the treatment of fatigue after stroke, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-analysis. Front Psychol 7: 912. [Crossref]
  4. Brickenkamp R, Schmidt-Atzert L, Liepmann D (2010) Test d2-R: Aufmerksamkeits-Belastungs-Test. Revidierte Fassung. (1.Auflage). Göttingen: Hogrefe Verlag
  5. Krupp LB, LaRocca NG, Muir-Nash J, Steinberg AD (1989) The fatigue severity scale. Application to patients with multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Arch Neurol 46:1121-1123. [Crossref]
  6. Kabat-Zinn J (2003) Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice 10: 144–156.
  7. Blackwood SK, MacHale SM, Power MJ, Goodwin GM, Lawrie SM (1998) Effects of exercise on cognitive and motor function in chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 65: 541-546. [Crossref]

Editorial Information


Article Type

Short Communication

Publication history

Received date: April 16, 2018
Accepted date: April 24, 2018
Published date: April 27, 2018


©Schluh G. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Schluh G (2018) Wake-up pilot study for patients with multiple sclerosis and fatigue: How mindfulness can help? Neuro Neurosurg. 1(1): DOI: 10.15761/NNS.1000103

Corresponding author

Gisa Schluh

Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, University Hospital Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, Tel: +49 761 270-50010; Fax: +49 761 270-53900

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