-- Alan Mozes
FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
in addition to the disabling lesions it's known to cause, multiple
sclerosis also damages the part of the brain that affects thinking
skills, motor function and the senses.
"The thalamus is a central area that relates to the rest of the brain and acts as the 'post office,'" study co-author Khader Hasan, an associate professor at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said in a university news release. "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."
Hasan and colleagues published their observations in a recent
issue of the
Journal of Neuroscience.
The study authors noted that aging alone can bring about changes
in the size of the thalamus region, resulting in some shrinkage
after age 70. However, the research team wanted to see if multiple
sclerosis (MS) -- which is often associated with the onset of
dementia -- accelerates such structural shifts.
The radiology researchers used cutting-edge MRI scanning
equipment to analyze brain structure in 109 MS patients, compared
to 255 healthy men and women.
The result: MS patients had greater volume loss in the thalamus
region than healthy patients, after accounting for age. And the
greater the loss in thalamus volume, the more disabled the patient
was, the investigators noted.
"This is looking at multiple sclerosis in a different way," Hasan said in the news release. "The thalami are losing cellular content and we can use this as a marker of what's going on. If we can find a way to detect the disease earlier in a more vulnerable population, we could begin treatment sooner."
For more on multiple sclerosis, visit the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
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