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Axonal injury and loss in the corpus callosum (CC) is characteristic of the pathology of multiple sclerosis (MS). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) potentially allows neurophysiological consequences of this interhemispheric axonal loss to be defined quantitatively. Here we have used 3T fMRI to study the activation in the contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex and deactivation (mediated by transcallosal tracts) in the homologous ipsilateral region in 14 patients with MS and in 14 matched healthy controls during a simple hand-tapping task. Both healthy controls and MS patients showed similar activation in the motor cortex contralateral to the hand moved, but the patients showed a significantly smaller relative deactivation in the ipsilateral motor cortex (P = 0.002). The difference was accounted for by the sub-group of MS patients who previously had impairment of motor function of the hand tested (MS-phd). The CC of the whole patient group was significantly thinner than for the controls (P = 0.001). Atrophy of the CC was correlated with loss of deactivation for the whole patient group (r = -0.50, P = 0.035), but particularly for MS-phd (r = -0.914, P = 0.004). Interhemispheric physiological inhibition thus is impaired in patients with MS, potentially contributing to impairment of motor control. This work suggests one way in which FMRI monitoring of the transcallosal interactions in motor cortex could become a tool for evaluation of therapies that may enhance function in reversibly impaired pathways.

Original publication




Journal article


Exp Brain Res

Publication Date





728 - 733


Adult, Aged, Atrophy, Brain Mapping, Corpus Callosum, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting, Neural Inhibition, Oxygen