Cognitive Dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis Patients Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and disabling disease characterized by lesions in the central nervous system. It is an incurable condition that affects over 2.5 million people worldwide. In MS, both the white and grey matter of the brain are affected. White matter is primarily made of axons covered in myelin, an insulating fatty layer. In MS patients myelin degrades and nerve fibers are exposed, causing problems in motor coordination and loss of senses. The degradation of myelin may also cause cognitive dysfunction.
Almost 50% of people with MS will develop problems with cognition, which may affect their ability to learn and remember information: organize, plan, and problem-solve; focus, maintain, and shift attention as necessary; understand and use language; accurately perceive the environment, and perform calculations. Cognitive changes are hard to identify and can affect the patients’ personal life. Sometimes, only those closest to the patient are able to notice changes at all. Furthermore, symptoms, such as cognitive fog, may embarrass and confuse the patient, leaving her or him unwilling to come forward about their struggle. Support and encouragement to seek professional help is critical at this time.
Cognitive dysfunction and fatigue are some of the primary reasons why those with MS prematurely leave the workforce. Additionally, according to Haussleiter et.al., (2009), “Cognitive dysfunction in MS reduces executive function and thereby is a major culprit of decreasing the quality of life in young adults.” These cognitive affects may make simple tasks, like following routine procedures, challenging. The need for early diagnosis is critical to control further impairment.
Cognitive Deficits – Grey Matter Lesions
Traditionally, scientists believed MS began in the brain’s white matter, which influences how parts of the brain work together. However, new studies suggest MS begins in the gray matter, which affects thinking and learning, which is highly related to damage in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays a central role in memory processes and consolidation of information. Hippocampus is also one of the first regions of the brain that is attacked during other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, etc. Studies show that the hippocampus is atrophied in the brain of patients with MS. Further understanding of this process could provide targets for therapeutic interventions including new neuroprotective treatments.
Renovo Neural is advancing research in this field of grey matter by focusing on reporting data from studies using a modified cuprizone mouse model of MS to study changes in the hippocampus. The mouse model recapitulates the in vivo process of demyelination and subsequent neurodegeneration in the brain, both in white and grey matter.
Specifically, the data shows spontaneous remyelination in hippocampus following 6-week or 12-week period of demyelination in the mouse model. With a highly skilled technical team, Renovo produces distinctive, reliable and reproducible animal model data that recapitulates pathology in the hippocampus. Furthermore, a new generation of neural analyses is offered by Renovo utilizing automated 3D-Electron Microscopy (3D-EM), a technology that positions Renovo Neural at the forefront of neural research and development. The 3D-EM technology offers extensive automation and comparative ease in interpreting ultrastructural changes in the CNS at a significantly reduced time and cost.
Hope for a Brighter Future
Dr. Bruce Trapp founder of Renovo Neural stated that remyelination in gray matter occurs at a much higher rate than in the white matter, suggesting different mechanisms regulating remyelination in white and gray matter. This research may open the door to new way to develop therapies to improve the life of those who suffer from this condition. Dr. Trapp says, “I’ve seen that the quality of life of a person with multiple sclerosis is often established by their approach to the disease. A positive approach makes their quality of life much better. As scientists, we have to give them hope. We have science that shows that the multiple sclerosis brain never gives up repairing itself.”
With the ongoing research efforts and scientific innovations of Renovo Neural and others, progressive treatment of the cognitive symptoms of MS starts to feel like a more realistic possibility and gives hope that a cure to MS may one day be discovered.