Cognitive-Motor Related Brain Activity During Walking: Differences Between Men and Women With Multiple Sclerosis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Jan;97(1):61-6. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2015.09.015. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Objective: To determine if sex differences in glucose uptake, a marker of brain activity, are present in brain regions that facilitate walking performance in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Design: Cross-sectional, observational pilot.

Setting: University laboratory.

Participants: Positron emission tomography with fluorine-18-labeled deoxyglucose (FDG) was performed on persons with MS and healthy controls (4 men and 4 women per group; N=16) after a 15-minute walking test.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measure: Brain activity was quantified as the mean standardized uptake value (SUV).

Results: The mean SUV was significantly lower in the thalamus (P=.029) and cerebellum (P=.029) for men with MS compared with women with MS, but not for the prefrontal (P=.057) or frontal (P=.057) cortices. Similar nonsignificant trends were found for healthy controls. No mean SUV group × sex interaction effects were found between the MS and healthy control groups (all P>.05).

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study of brain activity sex differences based on FDG uptake in persons with MS during walking. Significantly less FDG uptake in the thalamus and cerebellum brain regions important for walking performance was found in men with MS compared with women with MS; however, these comparisons were not significantly different in the healthy control group. No differences in FDG uptake were found between the MS and healthy control groups in any of the brain regions examined. Results from this study provide pilot data for larger studies aimed at identifying underlying mechanisms responsible for accelerated disability in men with MS.

Keywords: Brain; Multiple sclerosis; Positron-emission tomography; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebellum / metabolism*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sex Factors
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose