Residual sensorimotor functions in a patient after right-sided hemispherectomy

Neuropsychologia. 1991;29(2):125-45. doi: 10.1016/0028-3932(91)90016-2.


Sensorimotor functions were examined in a patient with left-sided infantile hemiparesis who underwent hemispherectomy (HS) on the right side at age 18 for intractable epilepsy. Pathological examination of the removed hemisphere showed a porencephalic cyst of the temporal lobe and of the frontoparietal operculum. On examination, the patient had hemianopia to the left and sensorimotor deficits only of the distal limbs contralateral to the HS. She walked with a barely perceptible limp. Axial and proximal movements were quasi normal, so that the patient could fully elevate both arms, flex and extend the forearm with nearly normal power and execute small, isolated precision movements of the arm around the shoulder joint. This astonishing proximal motor repertoire was mimicked on the somatosensory side where cutaneous sensation and kinesthesia were normal above the elbow and knee and contrasted the pronounced distal sensorimotor dysfunctions. Movement analysis by means of an optoelectronic two-camera position analysis system (Selspot II) showed normal flexion-extension synergies during gait, but abnormal synergic coupling between the shoulder and elbow joint during reaching and prehension. Distal movements were still possible but could only be performed as rigidly coupled movement synergies, such as closing and opening of the fist along with arm adduction/flexion or abduction/extension. She could engage these synergies for grasping and holding large objects. The performance of individual, fractionated finger movements was impossible. Involuntary mirror movements were elicited in both the affected and the normal arm, but with distinctly different phase relationships, indicating that different circuitries contribute to their generation. The case study reveals the existence of a bilaterally organized sensorimotor system that has the potential to provide quasi normal performance of the axial-proximal body parts on both sides. This raises the question why this potential cannot be better used in cases with only partial unilateral brain damage and persistent hemiplegia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Arachnoid Cysts / diagnosis
  • Arachnoid Cysts / physiopathology
  • Arachnoid Cysts / surgery
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / surgery*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Epilepsies, Partial / diagnosis
  • Epilepsies, Partial / physiopathology
  • Epilepsies, Partial / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemiplegia / diagnosis
  • Hemiplegia / physiopathology
  • Hemiplegia / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*