Author(s): Corbetta M, Burton H, Sinclair RJ, Conturo TE, Akbudak E,
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Abstract The functional organization of somatosensory and motor cortex was investigated in an individual with a high cervical spinal cord injury, a 5-year absence of nearly all sensorymotor function at and below the shoulders, and rare recovery of some function in years 6-8 after intense and sustained rehabilitation therapies. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity to vibratory stimulation and voluntary movements of body parts above and below the lesion. No response to vibratory stimulation of the hand was observed in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) hand area, which was conversely recruited during tongue movements that normally evoke responses only in the more lateral face area. This result suggests SI reorganization analogous to previously reported neuroplasticity changes after peripheral lesions in animals and humans. In striking contradistinction, vibratory stimulation of the foot evoked topographically appropriate responses in SI and second somatosensory cortex (SII). Motor cortex responses, tied to a visuomotor tracking task, displayed a near-typical topography, although they were more widespread in premotor regions. These findings suggest possible preservation of motor and some somatosensory cortical representations in the absence of overt movements or conscious sensations for several years after spinal cord injury and have implications for future rehabilitation and neural-repair therapies.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy