THIS WORK OF ART BEGAN AS THE BRAIN SCAN OF ELIZABETH JAMESON, an artist with multiple sclerosis. She has received dozens of MRIs over the years and said in a recent TedX talk that “they were black, ugly, scary Halloween-like images.” Jameson transformed the image by sketching it on silk and then painting over it with dyes—one of several MRI works she has created in various media.

In cases of MS, the immune system attacks myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers. This disrupts communication between the brain and body. While the cause is still largely unknown, new treatments have been making headway. In 2017 the Food and Drug Administration approved Ocrevus, the first treatment for the most destructive form of MS. Researchers are also exploring the use of stem cells to repair damaged myelin, a technique that was successfully demonstrated in rats last year. And clarity about the role of gut bacteria in the disease may also help. Last October, scientists in Germany showed that dietary fatty acids alter the composition of the microbiome in a way that changes the behavior of immune cells in MS patients.