Selective sensory deafferentation induces structural and functional brain plasticity

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Sensory-motor integration models have been proposed aiming to explain how the brain uses sensory information to guide and check the planning and execution of movements. Sensory neuronopathy (SN) is a peculiar disease characterized by exclusive, severe and widespread sensory loss. It is a valuable condition to investigate how sensory deafferentation impacts brain organization. We thus recruited patients with clinical and electrophysiological criteria for SN to perform structural and functional MRI analyses. We investigated volumetric changes in gray matter (GM) using anatomical images; the microstructure of WM within segmented regions of interest (ROI), via diffusion images; and brain activation related to a finger tapping task. All significant results were related to the long disease duration subgroup of patients. Structural analysis showed hypertrophy of the caudate nucleus, whereas the diffusion study identified reduction of fractional anisotropy values in ROIs located around the thalamus and the striatum. We also found differences regarding finger-tapping activation in the posterior parietal regions and in the medial areas of the cerebellum. Our results stress the role of the caudate nucleus over the other basal ganglia in the sensory-motor integration models, and suggest an inhibitory function of a recently discovered tract between the thalamus and the striatum. Overall, our findings confirm plasticity in the adult brain and open new avenues to design neurorehabilitation strategies.




Casseb, R. F., de Campos, B. M., Martinez, A. R. M., Castellano, G., & França Junior, M. C. (2019). Selective sensory deafferentation induces structural and functional brain plasticity. NeuroImage: Clinical, 21.

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