As your body experiences light, sound, touch, and other sensations, your brain takes in that information as a series of electrical signals. If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), the disease causes damage to your nerves that may slow down, garble, or stop this activity entirely. Evoked potential tests can help doctors see if this is happening to you.
The tests measure the electrical activity in parts of the brain caused by light, sound, and touch. They can help doctors diagnose someone with MS because...
“There are lots of physical issues that people with MS struggle with,” says Bart Rypma, associate professor of behavioral and brain science at the University of Texas, Dallas. “But it’s the cognitive changes -- slowing of thought -- that they experience most immediately.”
You may notice that you:
Solve problems more slowly
Lose track of conversations
Can’t follow directions
Need constant reminders about daily tasks
There are ways to get around these problems and make it easier to do what you need, and want, to do.
Why It Happens
The problem, Rypma says, is that communication breaks down between your brain cells and the blood vessels that provide the nutrients that help them work. That makes it harder for your brain to do its job.
Remember that pot of coffee? “Filling up the water, scooping the coffee into the filter, flipping on the switch -- that’s a set of skills that resides in your short-term memory,” Rypma says. “It may seem like you’re doing it by rote, but that’s just the brain working efficiently on its own.”
When you have MS and find that you have to repeatedly talk yourself through each step before going on to the next one, it may be a sign that the guidance systems in your brain have been slowed down by MS. Those brain cells don’t talk to each other as well as they should.
“It’s not that you won’t be able to do all your normal tasks,” Rypma says. “But it could take you longer.”
How to Clear Away the Fog
“Just because cognitive changes are common doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about them,” says Sylvia Klineova, MD, of the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “After all, your brain can be trained.”