The epidemiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) and the planning and interpretation of clinical therapeutic trials were the subjects of a symposium on MS held on June 13, 1989. Several speakers addressed whether MS is a genetic or an environmental disease. An environmental trigger would resolve the relatively low penetrance of the disease in susceptible individuals, although the alternative hypothesis that MS is a multigenic disease would also account for this observation. Clinical trials have to date failed to confirm the efficacy of any immunosuppressive or other agent in the management of progressive MS. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appears to be highly sensitive for monitoring the activity of MS. Preliminary evidence suggests that MRI activity correlates with longitudinal clinical assessments of disability. Immunologic tests, while valuable in determining pathophysiology of MS, have not been strongly correlated with clinical outcome.