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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Increased Brain Sensorimotor Network Activation after Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury.

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

After complete spinal cord injury (SCI), activation during attempted movement of paralyzed limbs is sharply reduced, but after incomplete SCI-the more common form of human injury-it is unknown how attempts to move voluntarily are accompanied by activation of brain motor and sensory networks. Here, we assessed brain activation during ankle movement in subjects with incomplete SCI, among whom voluntary motor function is partially preserved. Adults with incomplete SCI (n = 20) and healthy controls (n = 15) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging that alternated rest with 0.3-Hz right ankle dorsiflexion. In both subject groups, ankle movement was associated with bilateral activation of primary and secondary sensory and motor areas, with significantly (p < 0.001) greater activation in subjects with SCI within right hemisphere areas, including primary sensorimotor cortex and pre-motor cortex. This result was further evaluated using linear regression analysis with respect to core clinical variables. Poorer locomotor function correlated with larger activation within several right hemisphere areas, including pre- and post-central gyri, possibly reflecting increased movement complexity and effort, whereas longer time post-SCI was associated with larger activation in left post-central gyrus and bilateral supplementary motor area, which may reflect behaviorally useful adaptations. The results indicate that brain adaptations after incomplete SCI differ sharply from complete SCI, are related to functional behavioral status, and evolve with increasing time post-SCI. The results suggest measures that might be useful for understanding and treating incomplete SCI in human subjects.

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