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Identifying brain regions for integrative sensorimotor processing with ankle movements

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to define cortical and subcortical structures activated during both active and passive movements of the ankle, which have a fundamental role in the physiology of locomotion, to improve our understanding of brain sensorimotor integration. Sixteen healthy subjects, all right-foot dominant, performed a dorsi-plantar flexion task of the foot using a custom-made wooden manipulandum, which enabled measurements of the movement amplitude. All subjects underwent a training session, which included surface electromyography, and were able to relax completely during passive movements. Patterns of activation during active and passive movements and differences between functional MRI (fMRI) responses for the two types of movement were assessed. Regions of common activation during the active and passive movements were identified by conjunction analysis. We found that passive movements activated cortical regions that were usually similar in location to those activated by active movements, although the extent of the activations was more limited with passive movements. Active movements of both feet generated greater activation than passive movements in some regions (such as the ipsilateral primary motor cortex) identified in previous studies as being important for motor planning. Common activations during active and passive movements were found not only in the contralateral primary motor and sensory cortices, but also in the premotor cortical regions (such as the bilateral rolandic operculum and contralateral supplementary motor area), and in the subcortical regions (such as the ipsilateral cerebellum and contralateral putamen), suggesting that these regions participate in sensorimotor integration for ankle movements. In future, similar fMRI studies using passive movements have potential to elucidate abnormalities of sensorimotor integration in central nervous system diseases that affect motor function.

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Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Dr Karl Friston and the researchers participating in the SPM meetings at the Functional Imaging Laboratory, Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, London, for advice on the SPM analysis. We also thank Dr. G. Barker and D. MacManus for suggestions about the manipulandum, R. Gordon and C. Benton for technical assistance with the fMRI scans, and the subjects for kindly agreeing to take part in this study. Dr O. Ciccarelli and Dr C. Wheeler-Kingshott are supported by the Wellcome Trust. The NMR unit is supported by a generous grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. P. Matthews and C. Sahyoun acknowledge the generous support of the UK Medical Research Council and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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Correspondence to O. Ciccarelli.

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Ciccarelli, O., Toosy, A.T., Marsden, J.F. et al. Identifying brain regions for integrative sensorimotor processing with ankle movements. Exp Brain Res 166, 31–42 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-005-2335-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-005-2335-5

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