Imaging multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases
Although the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases is increasing as a consequence of the growing aging population, the exact pathophysiological mechanisms leading to these diseases remains obscure. Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system and the most frequent cause of disability among young people after traumatic brain injury, is characterized by inflammatory/demyelinating and neurodegenerative processes that occurr earlier in life. The ability to make an early diagnosis of MS with the support of conventional MRI techniques, provides the opportunity to study neurodegeneration and the underlying pathophysiological processes in earlier stages than in classical neurodegenerative diseases. This review summarizes mechanisms of neurodegeneration common to MS and to Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and amiotrophic lateral sclerosis, and provides a brief overview of the neuroimaging studies employing MRI and PET techniques to investigate and monitor neurodegeneration in both MS and classical neurodegenerative diseases.