MS Cerebral (Brain) Attacks and Symptoms

The Brain: Google Images

Surprisingly, the least common area for a multiple sclerosis attack (only 3% of all relapses) is the cerebrum, or the vast area of the brain. Attacks to the cerebrum can cause demyelination to its nerves as well as brain atrophy, or shrinkage. Such relapses can cause the following symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients:

Cognitive Impairments

Although not as common as spinal cord or brain stem symptoms, cognitive disabilities are thought to affect about 50 to 60% of MSers over the courses of their diseases. Such impairments include short-term memory problems, a decrease in reasoning skills, vocabulary deficits (“fishing for words”), and problems with outside overstimulation and internally processing outside situations (confusion.) Only about 5 to 10% of those with multiple sclerosis develop severe cognitive problems.


Multiple sclerosis depression can be caused by several mitigating factors such as coping with a chronic and debilitating illness, taking medications that cause depression, and non-MS outside stressors (careers, financial situations, divorce, other illnesses, death, and so on.) MS depression can also be organic, or caused by the multiple sclerosis itself. Scientists now know that depression can arise from damage to nerves within the cerebrum. These nerves send and receive messages about emotions, and faulty nerves can misfire messages. Brain atrophy might also be responsible for organic depression.

Tonic Seizures

Although rare (occurring in approximately 5 out of every 800 MS patients), brief seizures can happen when there are lesions and inflammation in the cerebrum.

  • Reference:

Rosner, Louis J., MD and Shelley Ross. New Hope and Practical Advice for People with MS and Their Families. Simon & Schuster: New York, 2008.


  • I love this series you have done with the symptoms from each area of possible lesions. Great info! Thanks Jen!

  • Jen

    Thanks Abby. I’m kinda dorking myself out with some of my posts, but I think this stuff is important to know so that when something bizarre happens, it can be connected with an area of the central nervous system. See- I told ya I love science!

    Thanks for reading!


  • I ditto Abby…or basically copy her comment because I’ve got no brains to think up one on my own. But you KNOW what I mean!

    Linda D. in Seattle

  • Jen

    Ummm, Linda—I forgot to tell you that I borrowed your brain for this post. Does it look familiar? I hope you don’t mind…I promise to return it after the series ends.

    Thank you for your contribution to science!

    Jen (LOL)

  • check, check, and possible check! if you have all of these things do you win a prize? :>)

  • Jen

    I definitely have some of the cognitive issues from the MS. At night, I sometimes forget the last word (usually a noun) of a sentence, like if I’m referring to something. I honestly can’t remember for a minute or two. And my short-term memory is for pooooooo…I’m a list fanatic.

  • Hi

    Mother of MS person who is one of the few with severe and significant cognitive problems, massive reduction in IQ, classed as learning disabled 13 years ago not long after birth of her daughter. Practically no info on this condition over last 13 years – anyone out there with an interest,any information, family with same problem?

  • Jen

    Hi Paula—

    I don’t know a great deal about this. From my own limited knowledge, I know that MS can affect cognition and emotions. The severity you are describing is unusual, and if you email me at, I can send you a contact at an MS center near me. My neurologist specializes completely in MS research and treatment and is the head of this facility. Maybe this center can give you valid/helpful information.


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