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MRI research demonstrates ALS attacks multiple parts of the brain
Date:9/16/2011

Recently published studies by a researcher in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry demonstrate that ALS known as Lou Gehrig's disease damages neurons in parts of the brain responsible for cognition and behaviour.

ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that eventually leaves patients unable to move, breathe or swallow. Previous research has shown about 50 per cent of patients with ALS also have mild cognitive and behavioural changes, but between five and 15 per cent of patients can have severe changes resulting in dementia. In Canada, between 2,500 and 3,000 people live with the disease. Most die within two to five years of diagnosis.

Sanjay Kalra, a researcher in the faculty's Division of Neurology and a practising neurologist, has published two papers this year in the American Journal of Neuroradiology providing evidence that ALS affects more than just the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for motor function.

"ALS was previously thought to be a disease restricted to the motor system causing only weakness," says Kalra, the principal investigator in both peer-reviewed papers.

"But a significant proportion of people with ALS also have cognitive and behavioural changes. We wanted to know how ALS was impacting other parts of the brain to cause these symptoms.

"There is increasing evidence from pathological studies of ALS patients post-mortem that not just the motor system is involved. Our research supports this and demonstrates in those living with ALS, that the disease is indeed attacking other parts of the brain. The cognitive and behavioural changes we are seeing in patients are not reactive," he says. "They are not happening because someone is depressed or doesn't have initiative because he is weak. Those changes are happening because there are biological and chemical changes in parts of the brain that are responsible for behaviour and cognition." <
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Contact: Raquel Maurier
raquel.maurier@ualberta.ca
780-492-5986
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Source:Eurekalert

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