Cervical cord FMRI abnormalities differ between the progressive forms of multiple sclerosis

Paola Valsasina, Maria A. Rocca, Martina Absinta, Federica Agosta, Domenico Caputo, Giancarlo Comi, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: Aim of this study was to compare tactile-associated cervical cord fMRI activity between primary progressive (PP) and secondary progressive (SP) MS patients and to investigate whether cord recruitment was associated with structural brain and cord damage. Experimental Design: Cervical cord fMRI during a tactile stimulation of the right hand was acquired from 17 healthy controls, 18 SPMS patients, and 16 PPMS patients. Average fMRI activity and its topographical distribution in cord sectors (left vs. right, posterior vs. anterior) were assessed. Correlations between cord recruitment and structural cord and brain MRI were estimated. Principal Observations: Progressive MS patients showed an increased cord recruitment compared with controls (P = 0.003). Despite a similar structural cord damage, cord activity was increased in SPMS compared to PPMS patients (P = 0.05). Regional analysis showed a non-lateralized pattern of cord recruitment in MS patients. Compared to PPMS, SPMS patients had grey matter (GM) atrophy in several cortical and subcortical regions. In SPMS patients, atrophy of the left postcentral gyrus was correlated with cord activity (r = -0.48, P = 0.04). Conclusions: Patients with progressive MS had an over-recruitment of the cervical cord, which was more pronounced in SPMS than PPMS, despite similar cord structural damage. The alteration of the complex modulation of spinal cord interneurons possibly due to a loss of supratentorial inhibition secondary to brain injury might contribute to explain the observed functional cord abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2072-2080
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical cord
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Primary progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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