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Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Feb;29(4):845-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06619.x. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

Reorganization of cortical hand representation in congenital hemiplegia.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Institute of Neuroscience (INES), Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


When damaged perinatally, as in congenital hemiplegia (CH), the corticospinal tract usually undergoes an extensive reorganization, such as the stabilization of normally transient projections to the ipsilateral spinal cord. Whether the reorganization of the corticospinal projections occurring in CH patients is also accompanied by a topographical rearrangement of the hand representations in the primary motor cortex (M1) remains unclear. To address this issue, we mapped, for both hands, the representation of the first dorsal interosseous muscle (1DI) in 12 CH patients by using transcranial magnetic stimulation co-registered onto individual three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging; these maps were compared with those gathered in age-matched controls (n = 11). In the damaged hemisphere of CH patients, the representation of the paretic 1DI was either found in the hand knob of M1 (n = 5), shifted caudally (n = 5), or missing (n = 2). In the intact hemisphere of six CH patients, an additional, ipsilateral, representation of the paretic 1DI was found in the hand knob, where it overlapped exactly the representation of the non-paretic 1DI. In the other six CH patients, the ipsilateral representation of the paretic 1DI was either shifted caudally (n = 2) or was lacking (n = 4). Surprisingly, in these two subgroups of patients, the representation of the contralateral non-paretic 1DI was found in a more medio-dorsal position than in controls. The present study demonstrates that, besides the well-known reorganization of the corticospinal projections, early brain injuries may also lead to a topographical rearrangement of the representations of both the paretic and non-paretic hands in M1.

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