Functional brain reorganization in multiple sclerosis: Evidence from fMRI studies

Patrizia Pantano, Caterina Mainero, Francesca Caramia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), the severity of clinical signs is not closely related to indices of structural brain damage provided by conventional magnetic resonance MR. Accordingly, patients with MS may show symptom recovery while progressively accumulating tissue damage. Changes in functional organization of the cerebral cortex have been reported in functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) studies that have compared the activation patterns during motor, visual, and cognitive tasks of patients with MS with those of healthy controls. fMRI studies on MS have provided the results that are difficult to compare and may be discrepant because of differences in the criteria used for patient selection, the activation paradigm, the experimental design, and the MR acquisition parameters. Nevertheless, they do provide a new, interesting tool that sheds light on how the brain changes its functional organization in response to MS. In patients with MS, functional brain reorganization mainly consists of an increase in the extent of activation of the brain areas used by healthy subjects, as well as the recruitment of additional brain areas. These findings have been interpreted as adaptive or compensatory mechanisms that allow normal performance despite neural damage or loss. However, brain functional activity may also change in response to clinical disability, though the precise role of brain functional changes in MS has yet to fully undersand. Longitudinal studies designed to explore the effects of both rehabilitation and pharmacological agents on brain plasticity might shed light on this issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-114
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroimaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • Cognition
  • Cortical reorganization
  • fMRI
  • Motor activity
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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