Understanding whether these changes are the result of worsening MS-related neurodegeneration or co-occuring (comorbid) Alzheimer’s disease will help guide better treatment decisions.
The study, “Long-standing multiple sclerosis neurodegeneration: volumetric magnetic resonance imaging comparison to Parkinson’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and elderly healthy controls,” was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
MS is an autoimmune disorder characterized by neurodegeneration and brain atrophy. Conditions affecting older individuals, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, also involve neurodegeneration. As MS patients get older, it is necessary to understand the differences between these different neurological conditions, and assess the possibility of their coexistence.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo conducted a study to compare brain changes among 184 age-matched healthy people (control group) and 220 older patients with MS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which primarily affects only memory. Those with MS accounted for 112 patients tested.
Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan for structural changes in their brains that might help explain declines in cognitive function. MRI is a common medical imaging technique that uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to generate detailed images of the body’s organs.
“One of the goals of the study was to identify certain structural MRI features that could help us better understand the newly emerging cognitive deficits seen in aging MS patients,” Dejan Jakimovski, the study’s first author and an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Buffalo, said in a university news story.
“Given that cognitive decline is a symptom of MS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amnestic mild cognitive impairment, we are using magnetic resonance imaging to begin to uncover some structural features that may distinguish how this symptom develops in these different diseases,” Jakimovski said.
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