The advent of magnetic resonance imaging techniques has greatly reduced the diagnostic value of neurophysiological tests, particularly evoked potentials, in multiple sclerosis patients, because of the higher sensitivity in revealing subclinical involvement of the central nervous system. Technical progress and new methods of investigating afferent and efferent nervous pathways would seem to increase the sensitivity in detecting neural dysfunction, but the 'clinical gain' is modest at best. More promising is the utilization of neurophysiological tests to quantify the severity of white matter involvement. Transversal and longitudinal studies have demonstrated good correlations between neurophysiological parameters and disability measures, indicating that a battery of neurophysiological tests could be useful in monitoring the disease evolution in single patients and as surrogate endpoints in clinical trials. Further studies are needed for a better definition of the applications of evoked potentials and other neurophysiological techniques. Finally, event-related potentials and advanced electroencephalogram techniques, such as coherence analysis, could provide useful information on the pathophysiology of cognitive dysfunction, so common in multiple sclerosis patients, and with a strong impact on the quality of life. (C) 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
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