Being on Tysabri means that I have scans every 6 months and I always wait with some anticipation to read the results. Interestingly the scans have remained stable for the last few years despite changes in my day to day symptoms.
Sometimes I do feel a little annoyed that my brain scan doesn’t reflect how I feel on a daily basis (anyone else feel this??). Anyway – I was reading some research recently about how the brain volume loss in patients who are on Tysabri can be driven by a loss of the grey matter rather than the white matter, and can happen even if the treatment is being effective.
Studies support the idea that there is an association between general intelligence and the volume of grey matter tissue in specific regions of the brain. This is not at all good news – and would explain why my brain training results are so naff (and my intelligence seems to be declining!!)
So there are a couple of things that I should go over first of all…
What is grey matter and white matter?
Brain tissue is divided into two types: grey and white matter. These names derive very simply from their appearance to the naked eye. Grey matter is made up of the cell bodies of nerve cells (the round blob on the end). White matter is made up of the long filaments that extend from the cell bodies – the “telephone wires” of the neuronal network, transmitting the electrical signals that carry the messages between neurons.
Typically, we think of the white bits being damaged the most in MS. We have all heard of the myelin sheath being damaged and broken away from the nerves so that the inner wire is left exposed – this is what causes those faulty signals.
Back to the study
Anyway – the study demonstrated that although the patients were clinically stable, they still exhibited brain volume loss over a period. The loss was also in the grey matter and not the white matter typically associated with MS. As I mentioned before, this is associated with intelligence… for example taxi drivers who have incredible spatial awareness will have increased grey matter in the area of the brain for spatial processing. Artists will have increased grey matter in an area for processing creativity for example.
So what can be done about this??
Well – apparently (and I am no expert) but you can train your brain by trying to learn new things. I have taken back up the piano again and am about to embark on some studies to support my job. Also, and I do not know how much of this is true, but Vitamin B is apparently very good for your brain.
A study at the University of Oxford found that high doses of Vitamin B slowed down the progression of atrophy in dementia patients. Looks like I will be upping my daily dose of Vitamin B 😀
Let me know if you have noticed any changes in memory or ability to process things… and what you do to overcome your brain barriers!