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PLoS One. 2016 Mar 8;11(3):e0150351. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150351. eCollection 2016.

Alterations in Cortical Sensorimotor Connectivity following Complete Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: A Prospective Resting-State fMRI Study.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Department of Biophysics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Department of Neurosurgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, United States of America.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have demonstrated alterations during task-induced brain activation in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. The interruption to structural integrity of the spinal cord and the resultant disrupted flow of bidirectional communication between the brain and the spinal cord might contribute to the observed dynamic reorganization (neural plasticity). However, the effect of SCI on brain resting-state connectivity patterns remains unclear. We undertook a prospective resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) study to explore changes to cortical activation patterns following SCI. With institutional review board approval, rs-fMRI data was obtained in eleven patients with complete cervical SCI (>2 years post injury) and nine age-matched controls. The data was processed using the Analysis of Functional Neuroimages software. Region of interest (ROI) based analysis was performed to study changes in the sensorimotor network using pre- and post-central gyri as seed regions. Two-sampled t-test was carried out to check for significant differences between the two groups. SCI patients showed decreased functional connectivity in motor and sensory cortical regions when compared to controls. The decrease was noted in ipsilateral, contralateral, and interhemispheric regions for left and right precentral ROIs. Additionally, the left postcentral ROI demonstrated increased connectivity with the thalamus bilaterally in SCI patients. Our results suggest that cortical activation patterns in the sensorimotor network undergo dynamic reorganization following SCI. The presence of these changes in chronic spinal cord injury patients is suggestive of the inherent neural plasticity within the central nervous system.

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