This article, pulbished in the latest issue of Neurology journal, shows that grey matter sodium concentration better explains cognitive impairment than atrophy in MS patients.

To investigate whether brain total sodium accumulation assessed by 23Na MRI is associated with cognitive deficit in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

Eighty-nine participants were enrolled in the study (58 patients with RRMS with a disease duration ≤10 years and 31 matched healthy controls). Patients were classified as cognitively impaired if they failed at least 2 tasks on the Brief Repeatable Battery. MRI was performed at 3T using 23Na MRI to obtain total sodium concentration (TSC) in the different brain compartments (lesions, normal-appearing white matter [NAWM], gray matter [GM]) and 1H- magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo to assess GM atrophy (GM fraction).

The mean disease duration was 3.1 years and the median Expanded Disability Status Scale score was 1 (range 0–4.5). Thirty-seven patients were classified as cognitively preserved and 21 as cognitively impaired. TSC was increased in GM and NAWM in cognitively impaired patients compared to cognitively preserved patients and healthy controls. Voxel-wise analysis demonstrated that sodium accumulation was mainly located in the neocortex in cognitively impaired patients. Regression analysis evidenced than the 2 best independent predictors of cognitive impairment were GM TSC and age. Receiver operating characteristic analyses demonstrated that sensitivity and specificity of the GM TSC to classify patients according to their cognitive status were 76% and 71%, respectively.

This study provides 2 main findings. (1) In RRMS, total sodium accumulation in the GM is better associated with cognitive impairment than GM atrophy; and (2) total sodium accumulation in patients with cognitive impairment is mainly located in the neocortex.

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