There is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms of brain and spinal damage in progressive multiple sclerosis, which results in irreversible and continuous neurological decline.

MRI is very useful in diagnosing and monitoring many neurological diseases, and a number of new MRI techniques have the ability to show brain alterations.

At the UCL Institute of Neurology in London, Dr Cawley used an advanced MRI technique, called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, to look for abnormal levels of chemical elements of brain tissue. She focused on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical product widely distributed in the brain.

Dr Cawley found that lower GABA levels in the cerebral areas controlling movement and sensation are associated with reduced motor performance in patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. These findings raise the possibility that altered GABA levels may be a marker of brain damage, but it may also suggest that GABA also contributes to the nerve damage in progressive MS.

According to these findings, GABA may be an important target for neuroprotection in progressive MS.

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