Mapping face encoding using functional MRI in multiple sclerosis across disease phenotypes

Maria A. Rocca, Laura Vacchi, Mariaemma Rodegher, Alessandro Meani, Vittorio Martinelli, Francesca Possa, Giancarlo Comi, Andrea Falini, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using fMRI during a face encoding (FE) task, we investigated the behavioral and fMRI correlates of FE in patients with relapse-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) at different stages of the disease and their relation with attentive-executive performance and structural MRI measures of disease-related damage. A fMRI FE task was administered to 75 MS patients (11 clinically isolated syndromes - CIS, 40 relapsing-remitting - RRMS - and 24 secondary progressive - SPMS) and 22 healthy controls (HC). fMRI activity during the face encoding condition was correlated with behavioral, clinical, neuropsychological and structural MRI variables. All study subjects activated brain regions belonging to face perception and encoding network, and deactivated areas of the default-mode network. Compared to HC, MS patients had the concomitant presence of areas of increased and decreased activations as well as increased and decreased deactivations. Compared to HC or RRMS, CIS patients experienced an increased recruitment of posterior-visual areas. Thalami, para-hippocampal gyri and right anterior cingulum were more activated in RRMS vs CIS or SPMS patients, while an increased recruitment of frontal areas was observed in SPMS vs RRMS. Areas of abnormal activations were significantly correlated with clinical, cognitive-behavioral and structural MRI measures. Abnormalities of FE network occur in MS and vary across disease clinical phenotypes. Early in the disease, an increased recruitment of areas typically devoted to face perception and encoding occurs. In SPMS patients, abnormal functional recruitment of frontal lobe areas might contribute to the severity of clinical manifestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Oct 6 2016


  • Attentive-executive domain
  • Clinical phenotypes
  • Face encoding
  • fMRI
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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