Extrapyramidal plasticity predicts recovery after spinal cord injury
Huber E, R Patel, M Hupp, N Weiskopf, M M Chakravarty, P Freund
Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to wide-spread neurodegeneration across the neuroaxis. We explored trajectories of surface morphology, demyelination and iron concentration within the basal ganglia-thalamic circuit over 2 years post-SCI. This allowed us to explore the predictive value of neuroimaging biomarkers and determine their suitability as surrogate markers for interventional trials. Changes in markers of surface morphology, myelin and iron concentration of the basal ganglia and thalamus were estimated from 182 MRI datasets acquired in 17 SCI patients and 21 healthy controls at baseline (1-month post injury for patients), after 3, 6, 12, and 24 months. Using regression models, we investigated group difference in linear and non-linear trajectories of these markers. Baseline quantitative MRI parameters were used to predict 24-month clinical outcome. Surface area contracted in the motor (i.e. lower extremity) and pulvinar thalamus, and striatum; and expanded in the motor thalamus and striatum in patients compared to controls over 2-years. In parallel, myelin-sensitive markers decreased in the thalamus, striatum, and globus pallidus, while iron-sensitive markers decreased within the left caudate. Baseline surface area expansions within the striatum (i.e. motor caudate) predicted better lower extremity motor score at 2-years. Extensive extrapyramidal neurodegenerative and reorganizational changes across the basal ganglia-thalamic circuitry occur early after SCI and progress over time; their magnitude being predictive of functional recovery. These results demonstrate a potential role of extrapyramidal plasticity during functional recovery after SCI.