Long-term remyelination after optic neuritis: A 2-year visual evoked potential and psychophysical serial study

Brain. 2001 Mar;124(Pt 3):468-79. doi: 10.1093/brain/124.3.468.


Thirty-one patients were followed-up, at 3-month intervals for the first year and at 6-month intervals for the second year, after an episode of optic neuritis. The object was to confirm previous evidence for a progressive shortening of visual evoked potential (VEP) latencies and to determine whether this is associated with any change in the clinical ocular examination, visual fields or contrast sensitivity. VEP latencies were found to decrease significantly during both the first and (less strikingly) the second year, the most marked changes occurring between 3 and 6 months. Contrast sensitivity improved during the first 9 months, but subsequently tended (non-significantly) to deteriorate. A similarly transient improvement in central visual field sensitivity was seen in a subgroup of patients with clinically overt multiple sclerosis. In the data from the acutely unaffected fellow eyes, no significant changes in VEP parameters or functional indices were observed. The findings extend those of a previous study which showed significant shortening of VEP latencies between 6 months and 3 years without significant functional improvement. Over this period, a significant prolongation of VEP latencies occurred in the asymptomatic fellow eye, accompanied by contrast sensitivity deterioration. Taken in conjunction, the two studies suggest that recovery processes involving remyelination or, possibly, ion channel reorganization proceed for at least 2 years. The concurrent effects of insidious demyelination and/or axonal degeneration (also occurring in the fellow optic nerve) are initially masked by the recovery process, but gradually become more evident. The functional benefits of the long-term recovery process are relatively minor and are usually reversed within a few years. Nevertheless, it is suggested that long-term remyelination may perform an important role in protecting demyelinated axons from degeneration. Understanding the factors which promote long-term remyelination may have significant implications for therapy in multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / physiopathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / psychology*
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Optic Neuritis / physiopathology*
  • Optic Neuritis / psychology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Time Factors