Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Sensorimotor cortical activity in patients with complete spinal injury

Residual activation of the cortex was investigated in nine patients with complete spinal cord injury between T6 and L1 by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Brain activations were recorded under four conditions: (1) a patient attempting to move his toes with flexion-extension, (2) a patient imagining the same movement, (3) passive proprio-somesthesic stimulation of the big toes without visual control, and (4) passive proprio-somesthesic stimulation of the big toes with visual control by the patient. Passive proprio-somesthesic stimulation of the toes generated activation posterior to the central sulcus in the three patients who also showed a somesthesic evoked potential response to somesthesic stimulation. When performed under visual control, activations were observed in two more patients. In all patients, activations were found in the cortical areas involved in motor control (i.e., primary sensorimotor cortex, premotor regions and supplementary motor area [SMA]) during attempts to move or mental imagery of these tasks. It is concluded that even several years after injury with some local cortical reorganization, activation of lower limb cortical networks can be generated either by the attempt to move, the mental evocation of the action, or the visual feedback of a passive proprio-somesthesic stimulation.