• connectivity;
  • cortical reorganization;
  • demyelination;
  • magnetic resonance imaging;
  • sensorimotor network


In this multicentre study involving eight European centres, we characterized the spatial pattern of functional connectivity (FC) in the sensorimotor network from 61 right-handed patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and 74 age-matched healthy subjects assessed with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a simple motor task of their right dominant hand. FC was investigated by using: (i) voxel-wise correlations between the left sensorimotor cortex (SMC) and any other area in the brain; and (ii) bivariate correlations between time series extracted from several regions of interest (ROIs) belonging to the sensorimotor network. Both healthy controls and MS patients had significant FC between the left SMC and several areas of the sensorimotor network, including the bilateral postcentral and precentral gyri, supplementary motor area, middle frontal gyri, insulae, secondary somatosensory cortices, thalami, and right cerebellum. Voxel-wise assessment of FC revealed increased connectivity between the left SMC and the right precentral gyrus, right middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and bilateral postcentral gyri in MS patients as compared with controls. ROI analysis also showed a widespread pattern of altered connectivity, characterized by increased FC between the right MFG, the left insula and the right inferior frontal gyrus in comparison with many regions of the sensorimotor network. These results provide further evidence for increased bihemispheric contributions to motor control in patients with MS relative to healthy controls. They further suggest that multicentre fMRI studies of FC changes are possible, and provide a potential imaging biomarker for use in experimental therapeutic studies directed at enhancing adaptive plasticity in the disease.