Cord damage elicits brain functional reorganization after a single episode of myelitis

M. A. Rocca, D. M. Mezzapesa, A. Ghezzi, A. Falini, F. Agosta, V. Martinelli, G. Scotti, G. Comi, M. Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To assess, using fMRI, the brain pattern of movement-associated cortical activations in patients with a previous remitting episode of acute cervical myelitis of possible demyelinating origin and to investigate whether the extent of cortical reorganization is associated with the extent of cervical cord pathology measured using magnetization transfer (MT) MRI. Methods: From 14 right-handed patients in a chronic and stable phase after an isolated myelitis (male/female = 7/7, mean age = 35.3 years, median disease duration = 21.2 months) involving the cervical cord and 15 sex- and age-matched healthy control subjects, we obtained 1) fMRI during repetitive flexion-extension of the last four fingers of the right hand, 2) brain diffusion tensor MRI, and 3) brain and cervical cord conventional and MT MRI. FMRI data were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping software. Brain mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy, and MT ratio (MTR) histograms of the normal-appearing white and gray matter and cervical cord MTR histograms were produced. Results: Patients with myelitis had lower average cord MTR (p <0.0001) and cord MTR histogram peak position (p = 0.002) than control subjects. Compared with healthy volunteers, patients with myelitis showed increased recruitment of the ipsilateral hemisphere in the primary sensorimotor cortex (p <0.0001), supplementary motor area (p = 0.002), and middle frontal gyrus (MFG) (p <0.0001). Average cervical cord MTR was inversely correlated with relative activations of the ipsilateral MFG (r = -0.80) and of the ipsilateral postcentral gyrus (r = -0.80). The relative activation of the ipsilateral MFG was also correlated with cervical cord MTR peak position (r = -0.92). Conclusions: An abnormal pattern of movement-associated cortical activations was found in patients with a previous episode of cervical myelitis. These functional cortical changes might have an adaptive role in limiting the clinical outcome of structural cord damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1085
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 28 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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