By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's no known cause for brain changes in multiple system atrophy (MSA). Some researchers are studying whether there's an inherited component or environmental toxin involved in the disease process, but there's no substantial evidence to support these theories.

MSA is associated with deterioration and shrinkage (atrophy) of portions of your brain (cerebellum, basal ganglia and brainstem) that regulate internal body functions, digestion and motor control.

Evaluation under a microscope of damaged brain tissue of people with MSA reveals nerve cells (neurons) that contain an abnormal amount of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Some research suggests that this protein may be overexpressed in multiple system atrophy.

May 20, 2014