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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jun 11;45(10):2201-15. Epub 2007 Mar 7.

Cerebral compensation during motor imagery in Parkinson's disease.

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F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


In neurodegenerative disorders, neural damage can trigger compensatory mechanisms that minimize behavioural impairments. Here, we aimed at characterizing cerebral compensation during motor imagery in Parkinson's disease (PD), while controlling for altered motor execution and sensory feedback. We used a within-patient design to compare the most and least affected hand in 19 right-handed PD patients with markedly right-lateralized symptoms. We used a motor imagery (MI) task in which the patients were required to judge the laterality of hand images, rotated either in a lateral or in a medial orientation with respect to the body sagittal plane. This design allowed us to compare cerebral activity (using fMRI) evoked by MI of each hand separately, while objectively monitoring task performance. Reaction times and parieto-premotor activity increased in a similar manner as a function of stimulus rotation during motor imagery of left and right hands. However, patients were markedly slower when judging images of the affected hand in lateral orientations, and there was a corresponding increase in activity in the right extrastriate body area (EBA) and occipito-parietal cortex during mental rotation of the affected hand. Furthermore, these regions increased their connectivity towards the left PMd for right (affected) hands in a lateral orientation. We infer that, in strongly lateralized PD patients, motor imagery of the most-affected hand exploits additional resources in extrastriate visual areas. These findings characterize the cerebral bases of the increased dependence on visual information processing during the generation of motor plans in PD, pointing to its compensatory role.

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