Studying the brain as multiple sclerosis progresses

GAINESVILLE -- (10/31/2017) -- A new study sheds light into the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It’s a disease where the body attacks its own central nervous system. While there’s no cure, researchers want to know what happens in the brain early in the progression of the disease, with the ultimate goal of finding something to stop it.

Sarah Maurer was 23 years old when her body went numb from the neck down.

Maurer told Ivanhoe, “I couldn’t brush my own hair. I had no control over my hands.”

Soon after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. With no cure, the only remedy is medicine and research. According to a recent study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, each MS relapse impacts what’s stored in a patient’s brain reserve. This could be why MS patients have a tougher time understanding social cues.

“I have a harder time picking up sarcasm from my 15-year-old. He says, ‘Mom I’m joking,” said Maurer.

While Maurer took medication for MS, her relapses and symptoms continued. Thanks to recent medical advancements, she now takes a new pill … and it’s working.

Maurer continued, “When I had my MRI in 2016, I had enhancing legions and new legions. And that was scary. I had an MRI in March; nothing enhancing and nothing new.”

Augusto Miravalle, MD, FAAN, Associate Professor of Neurology, Associate Chair of Education, Chief, Multiple Sclerosis Division, Department of Neurology at the University of Florida says there are now 15 approved medications doctors can use to stop multiple sclerosis from getting worse.

Dr. Miravalle explained, “With our therapies, we pretty much expect nothing new. So, no new legions in the brain, and no relapses or no clinical attacks as well as no evidence of disease progression.”

Maurer’s advice to others in her shoes: keep a fighting spirit; the one thing a disease can’t control.

“I just do my best to stay more than two steps ahead of it. Catch me if you can,” said Maurer.

On the brain scans, compared to the healthy people, those with MS had widespread abnormalities in their white matter, with the most extensive damage in areas that play an important role in the brain's network. The more damage people had in these areas of the brain, the more likely they were to also have low scores on the clinical tests.



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