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Hum Brain Mapp. 2004 Feb;21(2):108-17.

Simple and complex movement-associated functional MRI changes in patients at presentation with clinically isolated syndromes suggestive of multiple sclerosis.

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Neuroimaging Research Unit, Scientific Institute and University Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated whether movement-associated functional changes of the brain are present in patients who are, most likely, at the earliest stage of multiple sclerosis (MS). Functional MRI exams were obtained from 16 patients at presentation with clinically isolated syndromes (CIS) suggestive of MS and 15 sex- and age-matched healthy volunteers during the performance of three simple and one more complex motor tasks with fully normal functioning extremities. fMRI analysis was performed using statistical parametric mapping (SPM99). Compared to healthy volunteers, CIS patients had increased activations of the contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex (SMC), secondary somatosensory cortex (SII), and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), when performing a simple motor task with the dominant hand. The increased recruitment of the contralateral primary SMC was also found during the performance of the same motor task with the non-dominant hand and with the dominant foot. In this latter case, an anterior shift of the center of activation of this region was detected. During the performance of a complex motor task with the dominant upper and lower limbs, CIS patients had an increased recruitment of a widespread network (including the frontal lobe, the insula, the thalamus), usually considered to function in motor, sensory, and multimodal integration processing. The comparison of brain activations during the performance of simple vs. complex motor tasks showed that the movement-associated somatotopic organization of the cerebral and cerebellar cortices was retained in patients with CIS. Cortical reorganization occurs in patients at presentation with CIS highly suggestive of MS. Local synaptic reorganization, recruitment of parallel existing pathways, and reorganization of distant sites are all likely to contribute to the observed functional changes. Hum. Brain Mapping 21:106-115, 2004.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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