New imaging technique holds promise for speeding MS research

June 12, 2013
This brain image was developed using a frequency-based MRI scan. The circled areas show lesions -- scars in the myelin. Credit: Alex Rauscher/University of British Columbia

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that detects the telltale signs of multiple sclerosis in finer detail than ever before – providing a more powerful tool for evaluating new treatments.

The technique analyzes the frequency of electro-magnetic waves collected by an , instead of the size of those waves. Although analyzing the number of waves per second had long been considered a more sensitive way of detecting changes in tissue structure, the math needed to create usable images had proved daunting.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when a person's attack the protective insulation, known as myelin, that surrounds . The breakdown of myelin impedes the transmitted between neurons, leading to a range of symptoms, including numbness or weakness, vision loss, tremors, dizziness and fatigue.

Alexander Rauscher, an assistant professor of radiology, and graduate student Vanessa Wiggerman in the UBC MRI Research Centre, analyzed the frequency of MRI brain scans. With Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, an associate professor of neurology and director of the UBC Hospital MS Clinic, they applied their method to 20 MS patients, who were scanned once a month for six months using both conventional MRI and the new frequency-based method.

Once scars in the myelin, known as lesions, appeared in conventional , Rauscher and his colleagues went back to earlier frequency-based images of those patients. Looking in the precise areas of those lesions, they found frequency changes – indicating tissue damage – at least two months before any sign of damage appeared on conventional scans. The results were published according to research published in the June 12, 2013, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"This technique teases out the subtle differences in the development of MS lesions over time," Rauscher says. "Because this technique is more sensitive to those changes, researchers could use much smaller studies to determine whether a treatment – such as a new drug – is slowing or even stopping the myelin breakdown."

Explore further: Atrophy in key region of brain associated with multiple sclerosis

Related Stories

Atrophy in key region of brain associated with multiple sclerosis

April 23, 2013
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of atrophy in an important area of the brain are an accurate predictor of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology. According ...

MRI research sheds new light on nerve fibers in the brain

November 2, 2012
World-leading experts in Magnetic Resonance Imaging from The University of Nottingham's Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre have made a key discovery which could give the medical world a new tool for the improved ...

MRI research sheds new light on nerve fibres in the brain

October 24, 2012
World-leading experts in Magnetic Resonance Imaging from The University of Nottingham's Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre  have made a key discovery which could give the medical world a new tool for the improved ...

People with MS-related memory and attention problems have signs of extensive brain damage

March 6, 2013
People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who have cognitive problems, or problems with memory, attention, and concentration, have more damage to areas of the brain involved in cognitive processes than people with MS who do not ...

Eye scan could help track progress of multiple sclerosis

December 24, 2012
(HealthDay)—In-office eye scans that assess the thinning of the retina may also help doctors determine how fast multiple sclerosis (MS) is progressing in patients with the nervous system disease, a new study suggests.

Low vitamin D levels linked to more severe multiple sclerosis symptoms

October 2, 2012
Low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased number of brain lesions and signs of a more active disease state in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study finds, suggesting a potential link between ...

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.