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Brain atrophy responsible for depression in people battling multiple sclerosis
Date:7/1/2010

Adding to all that ails people managing their multiple sclerosis is depression ― for which MS sufferers have a lifetime risk as high as 50 percent.

Yet despite its prevalence, the cause of this depression is not understood. It's not related to how severe one's MS is, and it can occur at any stage of the disease. That suggests it is not simply a psychological reaction that comes from dealing with the burden of a serious neurologic disorder.

Now, in the first such study in living humans, researchers at UCLA suggest a cause, and it's not psychological, but physical: atrophy of a specific region of the hippocampus, a critical part of the brain involved in mood and memory, among other functions.

Reporting in the early online edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry, senior study author Dr. Nancy Sicotte, a UCLA associate professor of neurology, Stefan Gold, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program, and colleagues used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging to identify three key sub-regions of the hippocampus that were found to be smaller in people with MS when compared with the brains of healthy individuals.

The researchers also found a relationship between this atrophy and hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex set of interactions among three glands. The HPA axis is part of the neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress and regulates many physiological processes. It's thought that this dysregulation may play a role in the atrophy of the hippocampus and the development of depression.

"Depression is one of the most common symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis," Gold said. "It impacts cognitive function, quality of life, work performance and treatment compliance. Worst of all, it's also one of the strongest predictors of suicide."

The researchers examined three sub-regions of the hippocampus regio
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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