The adult mammalian brain has the capacity of reorganising its neural connections in response to lesions/modifications of the peripheral and central nervous system. We show in vivo, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), that in paraplegics the lower-limb sensorimotor cortex is invaded by the arm representation. This functional reshaping appears to be reversible. Indeed, surgical transfer of the ulnar nerve to the ipsilateral quadriceps and hip muscles allowed their contraction in a paraplegic patient. During fMRI, these voluntary movements activated the hip and thigh representation in sensorimotor cortex. We suggest that the functional recovery of the lower-limb functional maps might have been driven by the restored somatosensory inputs from the reactivated periphery. The voluntary movements of the lower-limbs are regained through the 're-awakening' of the corresponding sensorimotor cortex.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Sensorimotor maps
- Spinal cord injury
ASJC Scopus subject areas