Somatosensory Plasticity in Pediatric Cerebral Palsy following Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Neural Plast. 2018 Nov 8:2018:1891978. doi: 10.1155/2018/1891978. eCollection 2018.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is predominantly a disorder of movement, with evidence of sensory-motor dysfunction. CIMT1 is a widely used treatment for hemiplegic CP. However, effects of CIMT on somatosensory processing remain unclear. To examine potential CIMT-induced changes in cortical tactile processing, we designed a prospective study, during which 10 children with hemiplegic CP (5 to 8 years old) underwent an intensive one-week-long nonremovable hard-constraint CIMT. Before and directly after the treatment, we recorded their cortical event-related potential (ERP) responses to calibrated light touch (versus a control stimulus) at the more and less affected hand. To provide insights into the core neurophysiological deficits in light touch processing in CP as well as into the plasticity of this function following CIMT, we analyzed the ERPs within an electrical neuroimaging framework. After CIMT, brain areas governing the more affected hand responded to touch in configurations similar to those activated by the hemisphere controlling the less affected hand before CIMT. This was in contrast to the affected hand where configurations resembled those of the more affected hand before CIMT. Furthermore, dysfunctional patterns of brain activity, identified using hierarchical ERP cluster analyses, appeared reduced after CIMT in proportion with changes in sensory-motor measures (grip or pinch movements). These novel results suggest recovery of functional sensory activation as one possible mechanism underlying the effectiveness of intensive constraint-based therapy on motor functions in the more affected upper extremity in CP. However, maladaptive effects on the less affected constrained extremity may also have occurred. Our findings also highlight the use of electrical neuroimaging as feasible methodology to measure changes in tactile function after treatment even in young children, as it does not require active participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Therapy, Continuous Passive / methods*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*