BACKGROUND: Somatosensory temporal discrimination threshold (STDT) is altered in multiple sclerosis (MS). In healthy subjects (HS), voluntary movement modulates the STDT through mechanisms of subcortical sensory gating.
OBJECTIVE: With neurophysiological and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, we investigated sensory gating and sensorimotor integration in MS.
METHODS: We recruited 38 relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS) patients with no-to-mild disability and 33 HS. We tested STDT at rest and during index finger abductions and recorded the movement kinematics. Participants underwent a 3T MRI protocol.
RESULTS: Patients exhibited higher STDT values and performed slower finger movements than HS. During voluntary movement, STDT values increased in both groups, albeit to a lesser extent in patients, while the mean angular velocity of finger movements decreased in patients alone. Patients had a smaller volume of the thalamus, pallidum and caudate nucleus, and displayed higher mean diffusivity in the putamen, pallidum and thalamus. STDT correlated with thalamic volume while mean angular velocity correlated with putaminal volume. Changes in mean angular velocity during sensorimotor integration inversely correlated with mean diffusivity in the thalamus and pallidum. Changes in STDT and velocity were associated with fatigue score.
CONCLUSION: Altered STDT and sensorimotor integration are related to structural damage in the thalamus and basal ganglia in MS and likely to affect motor performance.