How does multiple sclerosis (MS) affect the brain?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease that affects the nerves in the brain; symptoms can vary depending on which areas of the brain are affected. In this video, neurologist Carolyn Brockington, MD, explains how MS can impact the brain.
Physician researchers have found evidence that multiple sclerosis (MS) affects an area of the brain that controls cognitive, sensory and motor functioning apart from the disabling damage caused by the disease’s visible lesions.

The thalamus of the brain was selected as the focus for the study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

“The thalamus is a central area that relates to the rest of the brain and acts as the ‘post office,’” the report states. “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.”

Researchers have known that the thalamus loses volume in size with typical aging, accelerating after age 70. The multidisciplinary team’s purpose was to assess if there was more volume loss in people with MS, which could explain the cognitive-related decline sometimes associated with the disease.

Adjusting for age-related changes in the thalamus, the researchers found that people with MS had less thalamic volume than the controls. The amount of thalamic loss also appeared to be related to the severity of disability.

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