Cortical motor reorganization after a single clinical attack of multiple sclerosis

Author(s): Pantano P, Iannetti GD, Caramia F, Mainero C, Di Legge S, et al.


In order to evaluate whether cortical motor reorganization occurs in the earliest phase of multiple sclerosis, we studied patients after a first clinical attack of hemiparesis. From a consecutive series of 70 patients enrolled in a study of patients with clinically isolated syndrome and serial MRI findings indicative of multiple sclerosis, we retrospectively selected 10 patients with hemiparesis as the onset symptom and no further clinical episode [mean age 32 +/- 9 years, disease duration 24 +/- 14 months, median Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) 1.25]. Ten age-matched, healthy subjects served as controls. Each subject was submitted to two functional MRI trials (one per hand) using a 1.5 T magnet during a sequential finger-to-thumb opposition task. Image analysis was performed using SPM99 software. Movements of both the 'affected' and the 'unaffected' hand activated significantly larger areas in patients than in controls in both the contralateral and ipsilateral cortical motor areas. Patients activated a greater number of foci than controls during both the right-hand and the left-hand movement. Most of these foci were located in cortical areas which were less or not at all activated in controls, such as the lateral premotor cortex [Brodmann area (BA) 6], the insula and the inferior parietal lobule (BA 40). Between-group analysis of patients versus controls showed significant (P < 0.001) foci in these areas, principally located in the ipsilateral hemisphere during right-hand movement and in both the cerebral hemispheres during left-hand movement. Time since clinical onset showed a significant positive correlation with the extent of activation in the ipsilateral motor areas (P = 0.006) during the right-hand movement and with the extent of activation in both the ipsilateral (P = 0.02) and contralateral (P = 0.006) motor areas during the left-hand movement. The T(1) lesion load along the motor pathway showed a significant positive correlation (P = 0.007) with the extent of activation in the contralateral motor areas during right-hand movement. Our study shows functional adaptive changes that involve both the symptomatic and asymptomatic hemisphere during a simple motor task in patients who had suffered a single clinical attack of hemiparesis. The extent of these changes increased with the time elapsed since disease onset and the severity of brain damage.

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