"This study, which included more than 200 patients, shows that thalamic atrophy is one of the most important predictors of clinically definite MS," says Dana Horakova, MD, PhD, the principal investigator at Charles University.
"Therefore, based on these findings, we think MRI should be used to determine which patients are at highest risk for a second attack," explains Zivadinov.
MS is traditionally viewed as a disease of the brain's white matter, in which myelin, the fatty material surrounding neurons that allows them to signal effectively, is gradually destroyed. The UB researchers are now revealing how the thalamus and other parts of the brain's gray matter, play a key role as well.
Central to a wide variety of neurologic functions, the thalamus is involved in motor and sensory function, the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, memory, emotion, consciousness, awareness and attention. It functions as a kind of relay center in the brain, taking in sensory information and sending it to the cerebral cortex; it also processes information coming from the cortex.
Another study, which the UB researchers conducted in collaboration with Stavanger University Hospital in Norway, is the first to look at the evolution of thalamic atrophy over a 10-year period in MS patients. Results also will be presented at the AAN meeting.
This study of 81 patients found that atrophy in the cortex and subcortical deep grey matter, including the thalamus, was significantly related to patients' declining cognitive abilities. "We found that cognitive dysfunction appears early in the course of MS and that thalamic atrophy plays a central role in predicting cognitive deterioration over the long-term," says Zivadinov.
In a review paper published earlier this year in Neurology, Ziva
|Contact: Ellen Goldbaum|
University at Buffalo