Study Links MS To Different Area Of The Brain

A study has suggested evidence that MS may not only cause damage as a result of the visible lesions that the said disease can create. It may also affect other areas of the brain responsible for cognitive, motor as well as sensory functions. The results of the study are published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Radiology researchers hailing from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston looked into the brain’s thalamus as a benchmark for the study. According to Khader M. Hasan, Ph.D., associate professor at the UTHealth Medical School and the study’s first author, “The thalamus is a central area that relates to the rest of the brain and acts as the ‘post office’. It also is an area that has the least amount of damage from lesions in the brain but we see volume loss, so it appears other brain damage related to the disease is also occurring.”

The researchers have previously known that the thalamus loses volume and size as a result of aging. This process accelerates after an individual reaches the age of 70. The researchers wanted to know further if the same process is accelerated in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, which might also explain the dementia-related decline that is also often associated with MS.

To determine this process in the study, the researchers made use of precise imaging made possible by the powerful 3 Tessla MRI scanner. The researchers used the machine in order to compare the brain scans of 109 MS patients with those from 255 healthy subjects. The MS patients who participated in the study came from the Multiple Sclerosis Research Group at UTHealth.

The results showed that, adjusting for age-related changes that happen to the brain’s thalamus, the researchers found out that the patients with MS also has less thalamic  volume as compared to the normal controls. The amount of volume loss also seems to be related to the severity of disability that the MS patients experience.

“This is looking at multiple sclerosis in a different way,” says Hasan. “The thalami are losing cellular content and we can use this as a marker of what’s going on. If we can find a way to detect the disease earlier in a more vulnerable population, we could begin treatment sooner,” he further added.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (2011, December 22). Multiple sclerosis linked to different area of brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 26, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/12/111222195019.htm

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