Motor learning in unilateral cerebral palsy and the influence of corticospinal tract reorganization

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Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a complex neurological disorder, characterized by congenital motor disability associated with behaviour, perception and cognition disorders. The sensorimotor impairments represent the main hallmark of the disease, significantly impacting the quality of life. So far, few studies have investigated motor learning abilities in CP and their association with the plastic reorganization of the motor system remains largely unknown. The present proof-of-principle study explored explicit motor sequence learning in children with unilateral CP and different patterns of motor system reorganization (bilateral, ipsilateral, contralateral). Children with unilateral CP, and a group of age-matched typically developing (TD) children, underwent a sequential finger tapping task, performed with the affected hand by children with CP and with the non-dominant hand by TD children. The pattern of corticospinal tract projections in hemiparetic patients was assessed by single-pulse Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Results showed the presence of finger dexterity impairments in children with unilateral CP presenting with a bilateral or an ipsilateral control of the affected (trained) hand, as compared to TD children. Conversely, motor sequence learning was impaired in unilateral CP with ipsilateral or contralateral corticospinal reorganization, but not in the case of a bilateral control of the paretic hand. These preliminary findings, although referred to small clinical samples, suggest that unilateral control of the paretic upper-limb, from the ipsilateral or the contralateral motor cortex, may not be sufficient to develop typical motor learning with the affected hand, which seems to require a bilateral representation in the motor cortex. This evidence has potential implications for fine motor skills rehabilitation in CP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Paediatric Neurology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Cerebral palsy
  • Corticospinal tract reorganization
  • Dexterity
  • Motor cortex
  • Motor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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