By Staff Writer

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers, often causing severe disabilities. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (, “The exact cause of MS is unknown. The resulting damage to myelin, the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers, disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of communication signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.” 

The Tribune spoke with Outreach Coordinator Whitney Neal to find out more about a joint research project between the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Illinois Chicago investigating the role of an exercise program in improving these symptoms in the Black people with MS. 

Neal notes that historically MS was considered a disease that predominately impacts white people, but more recent research has shown that Black people are at a higher risk of developing MS and having a more severe disease course.  Multiple reasons exist for these health disparities, including access to healthcare and access to exercise facilities. She further notes that there is substantial evidence that “exercise can help manage MS-related symptoms”  but only 1.7 percent of participants in exercise-based research studies were Black or African American. 

According to Neal, “The Principal Investigator, Prof. Robert Motl, and Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Dori Pekmezi, worked on previous research studies together during the 5 years Motl worked at UAB as professor and director of research in the Department of Physical Therapy. UAB is responsible for all project outreach activities that support participant recruitment throughout the South, while UIC oversees the implementation of the TEAAMS interventions and project.”

The TEAAMS project is interested in addressing the barriers that many Black people in the South with MS face. Neal notes that the “the TEAAMS project was developed in response to that need and features a patient-informed, culturally-tailored home-based exercise training program for Blacks and African Americans with MS that aims to help reduce MS-related symptoms.”

The goal of this study is to examine whether a home-based exercise training program for Black/African American adults with multiple sclerosis can provide improvements in walking dysfunction, symptoms, and quality of life. Recruitment is currently underway. Neal states If you are interested in participating you can submit your contact information for a follow-up phone call via a pre-screening survey on the TEAAMS project website 

This study is funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF).