Objective: Low-grade brain tumors may remain asymptomatic in contrast to malignant gliomas. The mechanisms underlying the preservation of cerebral function in such gliomas are not well understood.
Methods: We used positron emission tomography and transcranial magnetic stimulation for presurgical monitoring of motor hand function in six patients with gliomas of the precentral gyrus. All patients were able to perform finger movements of the contralesional hand.
Results: Movement-related increases of the regional cerebral blood flow occurred only outside the tumor in surrounding brain tissue. Compared with the contralateral side, these activations were shifted by 20 +/- 13 mm (standard deviation) within the dorsoventral dimension of the precentral gyrus. This shift of cortical hand representation could not be explained by the deformation of the central sulcus as determined from the spatially aligned magnetic resonance images but was closely related to the location of the maximal tumor growth. Dorsal tumor growth resulted in ventral displacement of motor hand representation, leaving the motor cortical output system unaffected, whereas ventral tumor growth leading to dorsal displacement of motor hand representation compromised the motor cortical output, as evident from transcranial magnetic stimulation. In two patients, additional activation of the supplementary motor area was present.
Conclusion: Our data provide evidence for the reorganization of the human motor cortex to allow for preserved hand function in Grade II astrocytomas.