MS Affects Different Brain Regions in Men and Women, UB Study Shows

By Lois Baker

Release Date: April 4, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new multiple sclerosis study conducted by University at Buffalo neurologists has shown that in addition to affecting women two-to-three times more than men, multiple sclerosis (MS) damages different regions of the brain in men and women.

The differences were defined by analyzing brain scans of 795 MS patients and 101 healthy controls using conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques plus more advanced nonconventional MRI techniques, such as diffusion weighted imaging and magnetization transfer imaging.

Results of the study were presented today (April 17, 2008) session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology being held in Chicago.

The research showed that MS in women results in more atrophy of the brain's white matter, the network of nerves that transport messages to the various brain regions, while the condition in men appears to cause more atrophy in the brain's grey matter, the regions where messages are received and interpreted.

Ronald Antulov, M.D, is first author on the study. He conducted the research while a neuroimaging fellow at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center (BNAC), part of the Jacobs Neurologic Institute, which is the Department of Neurology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Antulov and colleagues examined consecutively 620 female and 175 male MS patients who were seen at the institute, and compared scans with those of the healthy controls. All were assessed using conventional and nonconventional MRI measures.

"We found that atrophy of gray matter and central brain regions was more advanced in men, while atrophy of white matter was more advanced in women," said Antulov. The phenomenon was not observed in healthy controls.

"We think these changes are influenced by a decrease in sex hormones," Antulov said. "A recent study showing that male MS patients receiving testosterone treatment showed a lower rate of brain volume decline supports this concept. This finding also suggests that higher levels of estrogen may protect women against more severe MS-related brain damage."

The BNAC currently is applying for grants to extend this research.

Contributing to the study, all from UB's BNAC/JNI, were Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, M.D.; Jennifer Cox, Ph.D.; Sara Hussein; Jackie Durfee; Michael Dwyer; Niels Bergsland; Nadir Abdelrahman, M.D.; Milena Stosic, M.D.; David Hojnacki, M.D.; Frederick E. Munschauer, M.D., and Robert Zivadinov, M.D., Ph.D.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Rijeka, Croatia. Vladimir Miletic, M.D., of that university, also contributed to the research.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and School of Public Health and Health Professions are the five schools that constitute UB's Academic Health Center.