Brain changes after spinal cord injury, a quantitative meta-analysis and review.
Solstrand Dahlberg L, Becerra L, Borsook D, Linnman C
Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) lead to alterations in brain structure and brain function by direct effects of nerve damage, by secondary mechanisms, and also by longer term injury consequences such as paralysis and neuropathic pain. Here, we review neuroimaging studies of patients with traumatic spinal cord injuries, perform a quantitative meta-analysis of motor and motor imagery studies, summarize structural studies, evidence of cortical reorganization, and provide an overview of diffusion and spectroscopy studies. The meta-analysis showed significantly altered motor cortex, as well as cerebellar and parietal lobe changes, and qualitatively consistent reports of alterations in somatosensory brain structure, cortical reorganization, white matter diffusion and thalamic metabolites. Larger samples in combination with standardized imaging protocols and data sharing will further our understanding of brain changes after SCI and help in defining short and long-term changes in brain systems in SCI patients. Such data would provide a basis for clinical trials, treatment outcomes, and guide novel interventions.