A functional MRI study of movement-associated cortical changes in patients with Devic's neuromyelitis optica

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Movement-associated cortical changes have been shown in several neurological conditions and were found to be associated to the extent of brain and cord damage. Devic's neuromyelitis optica (DNO) is characterized by a severe involvement of the cord and optic nerve, with sparing of the brain. To assess the actual role of cord pathology on the pattern of movement-associated cortical recruitment, we obtained functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) from patients with DNO and investigated whether the extent of brain activation is correlated with the extent of cervical cord damage. We studied 10 right-handed DNO patients and 15 sex- and age-matched healthy controls. The MRI assessment consisted of the following: (a) fMRI during repetitive flexion extension of the last four fingers of the right and left hand, (b) brain and cervical cord conventional MRI, and (c) cervical cord magnetization transfer (MT) MRI. Compared to controls and for both tasks, DNO patients had an increased recruitment of several regions of the sensorimotor network (primary sensorimotor cortex, postcentral gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, rolandic operculum, secondary sensorimotor cortex, precuneus, and cerebellum) and of several other regions mainly in the temporal and occipital lobes, such as MT/V5, the fusiform gyrus, the cuneus, and the parahippocampal gyrus. For both tasks, strong correlations (r values ranging from -0.76 to -0.85) were found between relative activations of cortical sensorimotor areas and the severity of cervical cord damage. This study shows an abnormal pattern of movement-associated cortical activations in patients with DNO, which extends beyond the 'classical' sensorimotor network and also involves visual areas devoted to motion processing. The correlation found between fMRI changes and the extent of cord damage suggests that such functional cortical changes might have an adaptive role in limiting the clinical outcome of DNO structural pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1068
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Cortical changes
  • Devic's neuromyelitis optica
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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