July 30, 2003
Boston Cure Project
One of the main mysteries of MS is why people with the disease get the particular symptoms they get. It seems reasonable to think that specific symptoms arise because specific parts of the brain have been damaged. However, only recently has a large-scale study been performed to test this hypothesis.
In this study, researchers at McGill University in Canada applied automated MRI analysis techniques to 452 scans of people with relapsing-remitting MS. These people were participants in a clinical trial of an experimental drug, which conducted periodic MRIs as well as assessments of disability using the EDSS and the Functional System Scale, or FSS. The researchers obtained the MRIs conducted at the end of the trial, used lesion detection software to map the lesions in each image, and statistically analyzed whether total lesion load or any particular lesion sites correlated with impairment in any particular functional area. They did find a number of correlations, such as between cortical sites and cognitive impairment and between the internal capsule and motor disability. The article explains why these correlations appear to make sense, given what is known about the functions controlled by each brain location.
Still remaining to be determined, of course, is why a person who has
MS will get a lesion in one location versus another...
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