Decoding the Scientific Link Between MS and Depression
Decoding the Scientific Link Between MS and Depression

Decoding the Scientific Link Between MS and Depression

Multiple Sclerosis is a complex neurological disorder that affects both physical symptoms and mental wellbeing. People with MS often also suffer from mood disorders associated with their disease, and the scientific community has been researching the intricate relationship between these two conditions. Today we will explore the link between MS and mood disorders.

The Neurological Impact: MS Lesions and Mood Disorders

MS is characterized by the formation of lesions or plaques in the brain and spinal cord. These lesions disrupt the normal flow of electrical impulses along nerve fibres, leading to a wide range of physical symptoms.

MS-related lesions often occur in regions of the brain associated with mood regulation, including the prefrontal cortex and limbic system. Damage to these areas can disrupt the intricate chemical balance that governs mood, increasing the susceptibility to depression (Siddiqui et al., 2023).

Inflammatory Processes: The Role of the Immune System

MS is fundamentally an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, a protective covering around nerve fibres (Siddiqui et al., 2023). This immune response leads to inflammation and demyelination, causing the physical symptoms of MS (Siddiqui et al., 2023). Interestingly, the same inflammatory processes that contributes to the progression of MS may also play a role in the development of depression (Siddiqui et al., 2023).

Chronic inflammation in the brain, triggered by the immune response, can impair the function of neurotransmitters (Beier, 2023). Specifically, imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are closely linked to depression, can occur due to ongoing inflammation (Beier, 2023). This disruption in neurotransmitter function can increase the risk of developing depressive symptoms in individuals with MS (Beier, 2023)

Psychosocial Factors: The Impact of Chronic Illness

Beyond the neurological and immune system factors, the psychosocial aspects of living with a chronic illness like MS also contribute significantly to the development of depression (Beier, 2023). Coping with the challenges of MS, such as physical limitations, unpredictable symptoms, and the uncertainty of the future, can create chronic stress (Beier, 2023). Prolonged stress can dysregulate the body’s stress response systems, further exacerbating mood disorders like depression (Beier, 2023).

The Role of Circadian Rhythmicity: CircaMS

With the CircaMS study, we are investigating how circadian rhythms impact MS symptoms such as pain, mood and fatigue. This research also has the potential to provide fresh insights MS-related these symptoms and how they change throughout the day.

Our goal is to understand circadian fluctuations in MS symptomatology to better understand individual experiences and find practical and personalized solutions. By studying the connection between circadian rhythms and MS symptoms, we hope to help researchers find new ways to improve mental well-being and symptom management in people with MS.

Some resources for you!

Support and Mental Health Resources from MS Canada:

  1. Crisis Services Canada – If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 for voice and 4pm to 12am ET for text.
  2. Wellness Together Canada offers online tools and resources to help Canadians with a variety of mental health challenges.
  3. Government of Canada connects Canadians with mental wellness supports during COVID-19
  4. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 
  5. Webinar: Mental Health and MS (Rocky Mountain MS Center)
  6. Resiliency: Addressing the challenges of MS and watch the video on YouTube
  7. Canadian Psychological Association

Written by Avery Tick


Beier, M. L. (2023). Multiple sclerosis and mental health: 3 common challenges. Johns Hopkins Medicine.  

NIH. (2023, August 15). Circadian rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Siddiqi, S. H., Kletenik, I., Anderson, M. C., Cavallari, M., Chitnis, T., Glanz, B. I., Khalil, S., Palotai, M., Bakshi, R., Guttmann, C. R. G., & Fox, M. D. (2023, January 19). Lesion network localization of depression in multiple sclerosis. Nature News.

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