Reorganization of somatosensory function influences the clinical recovery of subjects with congenital unilateral brain lesions. Ultrahigh-field (UHF) functional MRI (fMRI) with the use of a 7 T magnet has the potential to contribute fundamentally to the current knowledge of such plasticity mechanisms. The purpose of this study was to obtain preliminary information on the possible advantages of the study of somatosensory reorganization at UHF fMRI. We enrolled 6 young adults (mean age 25 ± 6 years) with congenital unilateral brain lesions (4 in the left hemisphere and 2 in the right hemisphere; 4 with perilesional motor reorganization and 2 with contralesional motor reorganization) and 7 healthy age-matched controls. Nondominant hand sensory assessment included stereognosis and 2-point discrimination. Task-dependent fMRI was performed to elicit a somatosensory activation by using a safe and quantitative device developed ad hoc to deliver a reproducible gentle tactile stimulus to the distal phalanx of thumb and index fingers. Group analysis was performed in the control group. Individual analyses in the native space were performed with data of hemiplegic subjects. The gentle tactile stimulus showed great accuracy in determining somatosensory cortex activation. Single-subject gentle tactile stimulus showed an S1 activation in the postcentral gyrus and an S2 activation in the inferior parietal insular cortex. A correlation emerged between an index of S1 reorganization (distance between expected and reorganized S1) and sensory deficit (p < 0.05) in subjects with hemiplegia, with higher distance related to a more severe sensory deficit. Increase in spatial resolution at 7 T allows a better localization of reorganized tactile function validated by its correlation with clinical measures. Our results support the S1 early-determination hypothesis and support the central role of topography of reorganized S1 compared to a less relevant S1-M1 integration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology