Cortical plasticity following surgical extension of lower limbs

F. Di Russo, G. Committeri, S. Pitzalis, G. Spitoni, L. Piccardi, G. Galati, M. Catagni, D. Nico, C. Guariglia, L. Pizzamiglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human cortical plasticity has been studied after peripheral sensory alterations due to amputations or grafts, while sudden 'quasi-physiological' changes in the dimension of body parts have not been investigated yet. We examined the cortical reorganization in achondroplastic dwarfs submitted to progressive elongation (PE) of lower limbs through the Ilizarov technique. This paradigm is ideal for studying cortical plasticity because it avoids the perturbation connected with deafferentation and reafferentation. Somatosensory evoked-potentials (SEP) and fMRI studies were performed before and after PE during foot and knee stimulation, above and below the surgical fracture. A body schema test was also performed. Following PE, cortical modifications were observed in the primary somatosensory cortex for foot stimulation and in higher order somatosensory cortices for foot and knee. The former modifications tended to decrease 6 months after the elongation ending, whereas the latter tended to persist. Results are interpreted in terms of cortical adaptation mediated by temporary disorganization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-183
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Achondroplasia
  • Brain mapping
  • Cerebral plasticity
  • Co-registration
  • fMRI
  • Ilizarov
  • MRI
  • SEP
  • Source analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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