Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Different Area of Brain

According to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), multiple sclerosis (MS) affects an area of the brain that controls cognitive, sensory and motor functioning, which is separate from the disabling damage caused by the  lesions or plaques, which appear in the brain and spinal cord of patients with MS.

The thalamus of the brain was the benchmark for the study; researchers have known that the thalamus loses volume in size with typical aging, which accelerates after age 70. “Multiple sclerosis patients have cognitive deficits and the thalamus plays an important role in cognitive function. The lesions we can see, but there is subclinical activity in multiple sclerosis where you can’t see the changes,” said senior author Ponnada A. Narayana, PhD, Professor and Director of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging at UTHealth Medical School.

After adjusting for age-related changes in the thalamus, researchers found that the patients with multiple sclerosis had less thalamic volume than the controls. And that the amount of thalamic loss also appeared to be related to the severity of disability. “This is looking at multiple sclerosis in a different way,” said Khader M. Hasan, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging, and a lead researcher on the study. “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.”


1. Multiple sclerosis linked to different area of brain. website Posted December 22, 2011. Accessed January 5, 2012.

2. Hasan KM, Walimuni IS, Abid H, Frye RE, Ewing-Cobbs L, Wolinsky JS, Narayana PA. Multimodal Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Thalamic Development and Aging across the Human Lifespan: Implications to Neurodegeneration in Multiple Sclerosis. J Neurosci.2011;31(46):16826-16832. PMID: 22090508.