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New insight into MS brain problems

[Posted: Thu 11/10/2012 by Niall Hunter, Editor]

Irish researchers have gained new insights into brain function in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

This research provides new information on the impact of the cognitive impairments on MS and will help the search for new treatments to improve the quality of life of patients.

The TCD researchers' focus was on cognitive impairment, which affects nearly 65% of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and can occur in the absence of physical disability.

Problems in the speed of information processing, attention, and memory are commonly observed in MS patients, and these have an adverse impact on daily life.

The researchers stress it is important to recognise cognitive impairment as early as possible and to monitor its course.

However, brain tests to assess cognitive function can only be done infrequently and do not provide an objective measure of cognitive impairment.

The research team developed new mathematical methods to extract information from MS subjects' scalp with electroencephalography (EEG) data that allows objective measurement of cognitive function at frequent intervals and more importantly, offers new insights into the origins of this problem in MS patients.

The team acquired EEG data using 128-scalp electrodes from 95 subjects (MS patients and people without MS) while they completed a series of visual and auditory stimulus experiments. They then employed their newly developed mathematical methods to process the data to develop a measure of cognitive function.

Professor Richard Reilly ot the TCD research team said: "Objective, reliable EEG methods such as these developed in this study may have the potential to aid the detection and monitoring of cognitive impairment in MS, and therefore to complement clinical neuropsychological assessment."

The research is published in the journal PlosOne.





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