Tactile-associated fMRI recruitment of the cervical cord in healthy subjects

Federica Agosta, Paola Valsasina, Domenico Caputo, Maria A. Rocca, Hasslmo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using spinal cord functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 12 right-handed healthy subjects were scanned during a tactile stimulation of the palm of the right hand. The task-related mean signal change was computed for all activated voxels within the cervical cord, and separately, in the four cord quadrants (right and left anterior, right and left posterior) from C5 to C8. The frequency of fMRI activity' at each cord level was obtained by assigning a score of 25% at each active quadrant and by averaging the percentage of active quadrants at each level of all subjects. The difference in the occurrence of fMRI activity (a) in right versus left, and anterior versus posterior cord, and (b) among the different cord levels, was evaluated using a random effect logistic regression model, with the frequency of fMRI activity as the dependent variable and the subject as the grouping factor. The task-related mean signal change of all activated voxels of the cord was 3.2% (SD = 0.8%). During the tactile stimulation, subjects showed a higher occurrence of fMRI cord activity in the right than in the left cervical cord (odds ratio = 2.25, 95% confidence interval = 1.31-3.87, P = 0.003). A significant heterogeneity in frequency of fMRI activity between cord levels was also observed (P <0.001), with the highest frequencies of fMRI activity detected at C6 and C7. Spinal cord fMRI enables to obtain reliable physiological information on the activity of human spinal circuits associated to tactile stimulation. This holds significant promise for a better planning and conduct of studies of people with diseased spinal cords. Hum Brain Mapp 30:340-345, 2009.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-345
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Spinal cord
  • Spinal cord functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Spinal cord interneurons
  • Tactile stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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