Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Dr. Lara Pilutti

Assistant Professor, Health Sciences, University of Ottawa

Dr. Pilutti is an Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences. She obtained her doctorate degree from McMaster University (Kinesiology) where she examined the role of adapted exercise interventions for persons with progressive multiple sclerosis. Dr. Pilutti completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She went on to become an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at UIUC before joining the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Pilutti’s research focuses on the role of exercise in the management and treatment of disability arising from neurological disorders, particularly multiple sclerosis. She has specific interests in the application of adapted exercise rehabilitation approaches in neurological populations with advanced mobility impairment. Her research program has also focused on the role of exercise in the management of comorbid health conditions that commonly affect those with neurological disorders and disability.

Learn more about Dr. Pilutti

How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?

My early research training was in the field of exercise rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries. During my doctoral training, I applied similar adapted exercise strategies for people with progressive MS who experienced significant mobility impairment. Working on this project, I quickly became fascinated by MS as a neurological disorder, and motivated by the incredible patients that I had the opportunity to work with to develop solutions to deliver the benefits of exercise to all individuals living with MS. The critical need for advanced exercise rehabilitation solutions, and the people affect by MS that I have the opportunity to work with, continue to motivate me to advance research in this field.

What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?

The most enjoyable aspect of our research studies is ability to work directly with people living with MS, and to observe first-hand the impact that physical activity and exercise can have on their daily lives. These direct interactions also allow us as researchers to share in the challenges that people living with MS face day-to-day, and the inability to manage the unpredictable consequences of this disease.

Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?

Our research program involves an interdisciplinary approach that draws on techniques and strategies from exercise physiology, rehabilitation, behavioural psychology, neuroscience, and health-technology fields. Consequently, collaboration across multiple areas of expertise is essential to the success of our work. This study funded by the MS Society will examine the role of FES cycling exercise on a variety of different outcomes such as mobility, cognitive performance, and other MS symptoms. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with leading MS neurologists and neuropsychologists as members of this research team to carry-out this important work.

How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?

This research will examine an adapted exercise rehabilitation strategy for people with MS with walking impairment. Funding that supports clinical research with directly translatable findings is critical to advancing current MS care and practice. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to conduct this important research that would not be possible without the support of the MS Society.

If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?

What are the greatest challenges that you face to participating in exercise in your daily life?

Dr. Pilutti’s MS Society supported project:

Functional electrical stimulation cycling for managing mobility disability in people with multiple sclerosis