Prospective relationship of physical activity/BMI and relapse, disability, and fatigue in multiple sclerosis

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Number of Honour Places Available
Medicine and Radiology
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Steve Simpson, Jr. Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
A/Professor Tracey Weiland Personal web page

Project Details

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, autoimmune, demyelinating condition of the central nervous system, manifesting in sensory, motor and/or cognitive dysfunction. Given its onset is typically in the prime years of life – often in the 20s – it has devastating impacts on the quality of life and independent living of the patients so affected.

Insufficient physical activity is a frequent issue among people with MS, as it is in the broader population. It is all the more so in the MS population, however, because of the debilitating fatigue which is experienced by over two-thirds of patients. There is some indication in the literature, however, that greater physical activity may have beneficial associations with progression in MS, either directly or via reductions in BMI and associated parameters like dyslipidaemia. A limitation in the literature, however, is the relative paucity of studies examining this relationship prospectively, since an alternative interpretation of the physical activity-clinical course relationship is that this simply reflects reverse causality.

Using the HOLISM longitudinal cohort study (n=1,401 at 2.5-yr follow-up, n=952 at 5-yr follow-up), we aim to assess the relationship of physical activity, as measured by components of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, with clinical outcomes in multiple sclerosis, including relapse rate, disability as measured by the Patient Determined Disease Steps and fatigue as measured by the Fatigue Severity Scale. By using longitudinally measured physical activity, this study will examine the prospective relationship of physical activity with these core elements of clinical course in MS, with a goal to determine whether associations with clinical course reflect causal pathways or reverse causality.

Analysis methods to be employed include linear regression, multilevel mixed-effects linear regression, log-binomial regression, and/or Poisson regression, including univariable and multivariable models, as well as potential inter-group assessment of interaction by sex, age, MS course, or others as appropriate.

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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