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Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2019 Feb 19;6(3):586-595. doi: 10.1002/acn3.734. eCollection 2019 Mar.

Quantitative vibratory sensation measurement is related to sensory cortical thickness in MS.

Author information

Center for Movement Studies Kennedy Krieger Institute Baltimore Maryland.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Baltimore Maryland.
Program in Physical Therapy and Department of Neurology Wayne State University Detroit Michigan.
Department of Biostatistics Brown University Providence Rhode Island.
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland.
F.M. Kirby Center for Functional Brain Imaging Kennedy Krieger Institute Baltimore Maryland.
Department of Neurology Massachusetts General Hospital Brigham and Women's Hospital Harvard Medical School Boston Massachusetts.
Department of Neurology Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Baltimore Maryland.
Department of Radiology University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania.



Vibratory sensation is a quantifiable measure of physical dysfunction and is often related to spinal cord pathology; however, its association with relevant brain areas has not been fully explored. Our objective was to establish a cortical structural substrate for vibration sensation.


Eighty-four individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) (n = 54 relapsing, n = 30 progressive) and 28 controls participated in vibratory sensation threshold quantification at the great toe and a 3T MRI evaluating volume of the thalamus and cortical thickness primary and secondary sensory cortices.


After controlling for age, sex, and disability level, vibratory sensation thresholds were significantly related to cortical thickness of the anterior cingulate (P = 0.041), parietal operculum (P = 0.022), and inferior frontal gyrus pars operculum (P = 0.044), pars orbitalis (P = 0.007), and pars triangularis (P = 0.029). Within the progressive disease subtype, there were significant relationships between vibratory sensation and thalamic volume (P = 0.039) as well as reduced inferior frontal gyrus pars operculum (P = 0.014) and pars orbitalis (P = 0.005) cortical thickness.


The data show significant independent relationships between quantitative vibratory sensation and measures of primary and secondary sensory cortices. Quantitative clinical measurement of vibratory sensation reflects pathological changes in spatially distinct brain areas and may supplement information captured by brain atrophy measures. Without overt relapses, monitoring decline in progressive forms of MS has proved challenging; quantitative clinical assessment may provide a tool to examine pathological decline in this cohort. These data suggest that quantitative clinical assessment may be a reliable way to examine pathological decline and have broader relevance to progressive forms of MS.

Conflict of interest statement

Dr. Fritz, Dr. Eloyan, Mr. Glaister, Mr. Dewey, Dr. Al‐Louzi, Dr. Costello, Dr. Chen, and Dr. Prince report no disclosures. Dr. Calabresi has received research funding from MedImmune, Biogen, Sanofi, and Novartis, and consulting fees from Disarm Therapeutics, unrelated to the current study. Dr. Zackowski reports research funding from Acorda, Sun Pharmaceuticals and Biogen, unrelated to the current study.

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