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Silent Brain Lesions Linked to Cognitive Decline in Early-Stage RRMS by French Study

November 27, 2017

The lesions you’ve been calling silent all this time may not actually be as silent as you think, according to a new French Study that links these lesions to cognitive decline in early MS.

Researchers at Aix-Marseille Universite argue that the link has been missing since the major tool used for measuring disability in MS poorly reflects cognitive function.

Research has rarely explored the progression of cognitive function after the first symptomatic episode during early an amid-term disease stages, and if it is in fact linked to brain lesion accumulation. In order to further explore this, the French team of researchers enrolled 26 patients who had just experienced their first symptomatic episode.

Patients underwent wide-ranging cognitive tests that explored memory, attention, information processing speed and executive functions, these included cognitive skills that generally help people get things done. After one and 10 years these tests had been repeated, all being tested through the use of the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). The number of brain lesions were also measured using T2 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in order to detect both old and new lesions.

27 percent of patients showed problems in attention or information processing speed after one year, and another 11.5 percent had abnormal executive functions and an equal percentage had problems with their memory.

Nine years later, the 11.5 percent from year one jumped to 42 percent at year 10. Although, fewer patients did have memory problems at year 10 and attention and speed processing problems were more common.

These researchers found no links between higher EDSS scores and the number of brain lesions, the median EDSS score being an increased number of 2.5.

Instead of looking at lesions in specific areas of the brain, lesions in the left cerebellum and the semioval centers were linked to increasing EDSS scores. On the other hand, lesions in other brain areas like the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes were linked to cognitive problems.

In conclusion, researchers acknowledge that their findings must be validated in a larger study.