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Taking a brain-first
of MS

A brain-first perspective of multiple sclerosis (MS) starts with understanding the critical role that the brain plays in the disease. There are 4 key areas to focus on, including how you can help maintain the health of your brain by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Four key areas to focus on

Brain lesions icon

Know all you can about brain lesions in white and grey matter

  • Lesions can happen in both white matter and grey matter in the brain
  • They interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate from one part of the brain to another, and from the brain to the rest of the body
  • These communication breakdowns, caused by lesions, can lead to MS symptoms and relapses

Grey matter lesions were recently identified as being closely associated with cognitive and physical changes related to MS. Cognitive changes caused by MS may include worsening of memory, difficulty concentrating, or trouble thinking of the right word.

Be sure to ask your neurologist about lesions that occur in both areas.

Losing grey matter chart

Learn what research shows about decreasing brain matter

As we age, we all lose brain matter (both white and grey) naturally. For people with MS, this decrease in brain matter (also called brain volume loss) can happen more quickly.

Research now shows that a decrease in the volume of grey matter caused by MS is a strong predictor of long-term physical disability and cognitive issues. Understanding decreases in brain matter (or brain volume loss) can be an important consideration for people with MS.

Neurological reserve icon

Understand your brain’s neurological reserve

When brain lesions occur, the affected area may no longer function properly. However, other areas can step in and perform the tasks that part of the brain no longer can. This amazing ability to adapt is called “neurological reserve,” and it can keep you from experiencing MS symptoms early on in the disease.

  • Neurological reserve can decrease as brain lesions occur
  • Everyday lifestyle choices can help you maintain neurological reserve longer
  • Don’t wait until you’re experiencing symptoms to make healthy lifestyle choices that can help

Checklist icon

Make healthy lifestyle choices and manage chronic conditions

Healthy lifestyle choices can help keep your brain healthy, too. A healthier brain can help maximize neurological reserve.

Also, it’s important to manage other chronic conditions you may have (in addition to MS). If left unmanaged, chronic conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, and chronic lung disease) can actually lead to more relapses and a quicker progression of physical disability. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re doing all you can.