Functional neuroimaging studies argue that sensory deficits in hemiplegic cerebral palsy (HCP) are related to deviant somatosensory processing in the ipsilesional primary somatosensory cortex (S1). A separate body of structural neuroimaging literature argues that these deficits are due to structural damage of the ascending sensory tracts (AST). The relationship between the functional and structural integrity of the somatosensory system and the sensory performance is largely unknown in HCP. To address this relationship, we combined findings from magnetoencephalography (MEG) and probabilistic diffusion tractography (PDT) in 10 children with HCP and 13 typically developing (TD) children. With MEG, we mapped the functionally active regions in the contralateral S1 during tactile stimulation of the thumb, middle, and little fingers of both hands. Using these MEG-defined functional active regions as regions of interest for PDT, we estimated the diffusion parameters of the AST. Somatosensory function was assessed via two-point discrimination tests. Our MEG data showed: (i) an abnormal somatotopic organization in all children with HCP in either one or both of their hemispheres; (ii) longer Euclidean distances between the digit maps in the S1 of children with HCP compared to TD children; (iii) suppressed gamma responses at early latencies for both hemispheres of children with HCP; and (iv) a positive correlation between the Euclidean distances and the sensory tests for the more affected hemisphere of children with HCP. Our MEG-guided PDT data showed: (i) higher mean and radian diffusivity of the AST in children with HCP; (ii) a positive correlation between the axial diffusivity of the AST with the sensory tests for the more affected hemisphere; and (iii) a negative correlation between the gamma power change and the AD of the AST for the MA hemisphere. Our findings associate for the first time bilateral cortical functional reorganization in the S1 of HCP children with abnormalities in the structural integrity of the AST, and correlate these abnormalities with behaviorally-assessed sensory deficits.
Keywords: Brain injury; Brain reorganization; Cortical plasticity; Hemiplegia; Hemiplegic cerebral palsy; Magnetoencephalography; Probabilistic diffusion tractography; Somatosensory deficits.