Hemispheric lateralization is a frequently encountered phenomenon of cortical function. It describes the functional specialization of a region on one side of the brain for a given task. It is well characterized in motor and sensory, as well as language systems and becomes more and more known for various cognitive domains. While in the adult healthy brain hemispheric lateralization is mostly set, pathological processes may lead to cortical reorganization. In these cases neuroplasticity of the corresponding region in the non-dominant hemisphere seems to play an important role. In a previous study we investigated language associated regions in right-handed patients with frontal and temporal tumors of the left hemisphere. We observed a marked change of language lateralization in these patients towards the non-dominant hemisphere as measured by functional MRI (Partovi et al., 2012). In the present study we evaluated activation and lateralization of cortical motor areas in patients with tumors of the central region. BOLD fMRI was performed during unilateral voluntary movements of the contralesional hand in 87 patients. Individual correlations of measured BOLD-signals with the model hemodynamic reference function were determined on a ROI basis in single subjects and compared to those of 16 healthy volunteers. In volunteers the strongest activation is usually found in the M1 hand representation contralateral to the movement, while a weaker homotopic co-activation is observed in ipsilateral M1 (Stippich et al., 2007a). In the patient group our results show significant changes of motor activations, ranging from a reduction of M1 lateralization to equalization of M1 activations or even inversion of M1 lateralization during contralesional movements. This study corroborates in a large patient group the idea that lesions affecting M1 may lead to functional reorganization of cortical motor systems and in particular equalize hemispheric lateralization. However, it is not yet clear whether these changes are only an epiphenomenon or indeed reflect an attempt of recovery of brain function.
Keywords: Functional MRI; Functional reorganization; Ipsilateral coactivation; M1; Plasticity.