Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) is widely used for diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS) and for monitoring its activity and evolution. However, the correlation between cMRI and clinical findings of MS is limited, possibly due to the low pathological specificity of the abnormalities seen on cMRI scans and to the inability of cMRI to quantify the extent of the damage of the normal-appearing tissues. Magnetization transfer and diffusion-weighted MRI can quantify the extent and pathological severity of structural changes occurring within and outside cMRI-visible MS lesions. Proton MR spectroscopy can add information on the biochemical nature of such changes. Finally, functional MRI can provide new insights into the role of cortical adaptive changes in limiting the clinical consequences of MS structural damage. The application of quantitative MR-based techniques is changing dramatically our understanding of how MS causes irreversible disability and there is increasing perception that these methodologies should be more extensively employed in clinical trials to derive innovative information.
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