Increased Ipsilateral M1 Activation after Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury Facilitates Motor Performance

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Abstract

Incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) may result in muscle weakness and difficulties with force gradation. Although these impairments arise from the injury and subsequent changes at spinal levels, changes have also been demonstrated in the brain. Blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) imaging was used to investigate these changes in brain activation in the context of unimanual contractions with the first dorsal interosseous muscle. BOLD- and force data were obtained in 19 individuals with SCI (AISA Impairment Scale [AIS] C/D, level C4-C8) and 24 able-bodied controls during maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs). To assess force modulation, participants performed 12 submaximal contractions with each hand (at 10, 30, 50, and 70% MVC) by matching their force level to a visual target. MVCs were weaker in the SCI group (both hands p < 0.001), but BOLD activation did not differ between SCI and control groups. For the submaximal contractions, force (as %MVC) was similar across groups. However, SCI participants showed increased activity of the ipsilateral motor cortex and contralateral cerebellum across all contractions, with no differential effect of force level. Activity of ipsilateral M1 was best explained by force of the target hand (vs. the non-target hand). In conclusion, the data suggest that after incomplete cervical SCI, individuals remain capable of producing maximal supraspinal drive and are able to modulate this drive adequately. Activity of the ipsilateral motor network appears to be task related, although it remains uncertain how this activity contributes to task performance and whether this effect could potentially be harnessed to improve motor functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2-Sep-2021

Keywords

  • BOLD functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • first dorsal interosseous
  • force gradation
  • MVC
  • VOLUNTARY CONTRACTIONS
  • UNIMANUAL MOVEMENTS
  • MULTIPLE-SCLEROSIS
  • CORTICAL ACTIVITY
  • MUSCLE
  • FORCE
  • RECOVERY
  • FATIGUE
  • ATROPHY
  • CORTEX

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