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Monday, February 1, 2016

MS Cognitive Impairment Traced to Synapse Damage in Hippocampus

Researchers identified a new mechanism in the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) that might explain the cognitive impairment and decline observed in these patients — a decline not directly associated with disease’s hallmarks of motor control loss, and one not currently addressed by the immunosuppressive drugs used to treat MS.
“For too long, MS has been characterized as a disease that impairs people’s mobility, speech, or vision,” Dr. Harris Gelbard, director of the Center for Neural Development and Disease at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and senior study author, said in a press release. “However, the aspect of the disease that many patients complain has the greatest impact on their quality of life is the loss of cognitive independence.”
In MS, cells of the immune system attack the central nervous system (CNS), namely myelin, the element that covers and protects nerve cells, and the nerve fibers themselves. CNS inflammation, demyelination, and axon loss are all hallmarks of the disease, which is mostly associated with motor and sensory symptoms. A large percentage of the MS patient population also experience some level of cognitive problems, such as memory loss and difficulty processing information. Because such cognitive impairment is not prevented through current therapies targeting immune system overactivation and myelin damage, the researchers theorized that additional damage was happening to CNS neurons located outside those brain areas known to be affected by myelin loss.

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