TU Study Seeks Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Thursday, November 09, 2006


A University of Tulsa professor is seeking people afflicted with multiple sclerosis for an on-going study of how the neurological disease affects the ability to provide medical consent.

Michael Basso, TU associate professor psychology, is about halfway through a three-year study of how multiple sclerosis can impact a patient’s memory, attention and problem-solving skills in relation to providing consent for medical research. In 2005, he was awarded a $942,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

The goals of Basso’s study are to provide guidelines that can be used to decide which volunteers should not be accepted in a research study, yet also determine if there are ways to ensure proper consent among participants.

The study is seeking area residents who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Participants will be paid $125 and receive money for lunch. Participation includes attending a single testing session of about three hours on the TU campus. Those who travel from outside of Tulsa will be reimbursed for mileage. Escorts will get a meal and mileage costs.

Multiple sclerosis attacks tissues in the brain that connect neurons, causing a variety of impairments. Common symptoms include being forgetful, having difficulty in problem solving or understanding concepts, being slower in processing information, and difficulty in paying attention and concentrating.

Given that pharmaceutical companies need human subjects to test medications that they are developing to alleviate or cure the disease, the issue of consent is important in many ways. Researchers want good subjects and the subjects need to be well aware of the risks posed by taking such drugs. Risks can range from a headache to hair loss, nausea or even death.

Basso says ethical principles require that researchers disclose the risks, benefits and alternatives of research participation, and that an individual’s decision be made autonomously. Normally, people are presumed competent.

Basso will use written tests to check for four basic capacities needed to make a good decision: understanding risks and benefits, appreciating what those risks and benefits mean to the person, capacity to engage in abstract decision-making, and ability to express a decision. He will also investigate whether repetition of information can help in obtaining informed consent.

Collaborating with Basso are several Tulsa neurologists, a psychology professor at Penn State, and a psychiatrist and a bioethicist from the University of Massachusetts.

Those interested in participating may contact Basso at TU at 631-5472 or visit www.orgs.utulsa.edu/cre.