fMRI evidence of brain reorganization during attention and memory tasks in multiple sclerosis

Caterina Mainero, Francesca Caramia, Carlo Pozzilli, Angela Pisani, Isabella Pestalozza, Giovanna Borriello, Luigi Bozzao, Patrizia Pantano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data on motor function have shown adaptive functional changes related to brain injury in multiple sclerosis (MS). We investigated whether patients with MS have altered fMRI activation patterns during attention and memory tasks, and whether functional changes in the brain correlate with the extent of overall tissue damage on conventional MRI. Twenty-two right-handed patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and no or only mild deficits at neuropsychological testing and 22 matched healthy subjects were scanned during the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) and a recall task. fMRI data were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM99). The relation between fMRI changes during both tasks and T2 lesion load was investigated. During both tasks, patients exhibited significantly greater brain activation than controls and recruited additional brain areas. Task-related functional changes were more significant in patients whose performance matched that of controls than in patients with a lower performance. During the PASAT, brain functional changes involved the right supplementary motor area and cingulate, the bilateral prefrontal, temporal and parietal areas, whereas during the recall task they involved the prefrontal and temporal cortex and basal ganglia bilaterally, and the left thalamus. In patients, activation in specific brain areas during performance of both tasks positively correlated with T2 brain lesions. Patients with RRMS exhibit altered patterns of activation during tasks exploring sustained attention, information processing and memory. During these tasks, fMRI activity is greater in patients with better cognitive function than in those with lower cognitive function. Functional changes in specific brain areas increase with increasing tissue damage suggesting that they may also represent adaptive mechanisms that reflect underlying neural disorganization or disinhibition, possibly associated with MS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-867
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Brain
  • fMRI
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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