MRI in multiple sclerosis: clinical and research update

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Purpose of review

Clinical MRI is of paramount importance for multiple sclerosis diagnosis but lacks the specificity to investigate the pathogenic mechanisms underlying disease onset and progression. The application of advanced MR sequences allows the characterization of diverse and complex pathological mechanisms, granting insights into multiple sclerosis natural history and response to treatment.

Recent findings

This review provides an update on the most recent international guidelines for optimal standard imaging of multiple sclerosis and discusses advantages and limitations of advanced imaging approaches for investigating inflammation, demyelination and neurodegeneration. An overview is provided for methods devoted to imaging leptomeningeal enhancement, microglial activation, demyelination, neuronal metabolic damage and neuronal loss.


The application of magnetic resonance (MR) guidelines to standard-of-care MR protocols, although still limited, would substantially contribute to the optimization of multiple sclerosis management. From an academic perspective, different mechanism-specific imaging techniques are available and offer a powerful tool to elucidate multiple sclerosis pathogenesis, monitor disease progression and guide therapeutic choices.

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