In patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), we investigated whether brain and cervical cord structural changes in lesions and normal-appearing brain tissue (NABT), measured using conventional, magnetization transfer (MT), and diffusion tensor (DT) MRI, are correlated with movement-associated cortical activations measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). From 26 right-handed PPMS patients and 15 right-handed, sex- and age-matched healthy controls, we obtained: (a) brain and cervical cord dual-echo scans and MT ratio (MTR) maps; (b) brain mean diffusivity (D(-)) maps, and (c) f-MRI (flexion-extension of the last four fingers of the right hand). All PPMS patients had no previous symptoms affecting their right upper limbs, which were functionally normal. Healthy volunteers showed more significant activation in the ipsilateral cerebellar hemisphere than PPMS patients. PPMS patients showed greater activation bilaterally in the superior temporal gyrus, ipsilaterally in the middle frontal gyrus, and, contralaterally in the insula/claustrum. In PPMS patients, moderate to strong correlations (r values ranging from 0.59 to 0.68) were found between relative activations of cortical areas located in a widespread network for sensory-motor and multimodal integration and the severity of structural changes of the NABT (as measured using MT and DT MRI) and the severity of cervical cord damage (as measured using MT MRI). This study shows that the pattern of cortical activation of PPMS patients is different from that of normal controls even when performing a motor task with clinically unaffected limbs. It also suggests that cortical reorganization might be able to limit the consequences of MS injury in the brain and cervical cord.
©2002 Elsevier Science (USA).