‘Invisible’ Brain Changes May Be Key to MS Progression

any lesions (or plaques) in the brain, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

What clinicians don’t see on a standard MRI—but research scientists can see, using more advanced technology—are other, subtle changes that are also potentially related to disease course and disability.

Measuring these changes that fall “under the radar” could give doctors a better understanding of the disease, allowing them to offer patients a more clear-cut prognosis, the researchers said.

Using advanced MRI technology called “T1 mapping,” the Dutch team compared the brain tissue of 67 patients with MS and 24 healthy controls. The researchers focused on changes in areas not showing up as MS lesions (or plaques) on standard MRI images.

T1 imaging showed changes occurring in MS in large parts of brain tissue that would otherwise go undetected. According to the findings, depending on the stage of the disease, these changes may occur in 10 percent to 30 percent of brain tissues not showing any visible damage on standard MRI.

Changes were more pronounced in patients with more advanced, secondary progressive MS than those with the less advanced form of the illness, called relapsing-remitting MS, Vrenken said.

“This demonstrates that patients who are further along in the disease do not only develop more

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