Black holes in multiple sclerosis: definition, evolution, and clinical correlations

Acta Neurol Scand. 2010 Jul;122(1):1-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2009.01221.x. Epub 2009 Dec 5.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a sensitive paraclinical test for diagnosis and assessment of disease progression in multiple sclerosis (MS) and is often used to evaluate therapeutic efficacy. The formation of new T2-hyperintense MRI lesions is commonly used to measure disease activity, but lacks specificity because edema, inflammation, gliosis, and axonal loss all contribute to T2 lesion formation. As the role of neurodegeneration in the pathophysiology of MS has become more prominent, the formation and evolution of chronic or persistent Tl-hypointense lesions (black holes) have been used as markers of axonal loss and neuronal destruction to measure disease activity. Despite the use of various detection methods, including advanced imaging techniques such as magnetization transfer imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, correlation of persistent black holes with clinical outcomes in patients with MS remains uncertain. Furthermore, although axonal loss and neuronal tissue destruction are known to contribute to irreversible disability in patients with MS, there are limited data on the effect of therapy on longitudinal change in Tl-hypointense lesion volume. Measurement of black holes in clinical studies may elucidate the underlying pathophysiology of MS and may be an additional method of evaluating therapeutic efficacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferons