Resting-state brain and spinal cord networks in humans are functionally integrated

PLoS Biol. 2020 Jul 2;18(7):e3000789. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000789. eCollection 2020 Jul.


In the absence of any task, both the brain and spinal cord exhibit spontaneous intrinsic activity organised in a set of functionally relevant neural networks. However, whether such resting-state networks (RSNs) are interconnected across the brain and spinal cord is unclear. Here, we used a unique scanning protocol to acquire functional images of both brain and cervical spinal cord (CSC) simultaneously and examined their spatiotemporal correspondence in humans. We show that the brain and spinal cord activities are strongly correlated during rest periods, and specific spinal cord regions are functionally linked to consistently reported brain sensorimotor RSNs. The functional organisation of these networks follows well-established anatomical principles, including the contralateral correspondence between the spinal hemicords and brain hemispheres as well as sensory versus motor segregation of neural pathways along the brain-spinal cord axis. Thus, our findings reveal a unified functional organisation of sensorimotor networks in the entire central nervous system (CNS) at rest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*

Grant support

This work was funded through funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC): Grant #RGPIN-2014-06318,, as well as the Courtois Foundation,, to JD, the senior author. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.