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Journal Article

Association of pain and CNS structural changes after spinal cord injury


Freund,  Patrick
Balgrist Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland;
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, United Kingdom;
Department of Brain Repair & Rehabilitation, University College London, United Kingdom;
Department Neurophysics (Weiskopf), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Jutzeler, C. R., Huber, E., Callaghan, M. F., Luechinger, R., Curt, A., Kramer, J. L., et al. (2016). Association of pain and CNS structural changes after spinal cord injury. Scientific Reports, 6: 18534. doi:10.1038/srep18534.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-7673-F
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) has been shown to trigger structural atrophic changes within the spinal cord and brain. However, the relationship between structural changes and magnitude of neuropathic pain (NP) remains incompletely understood. Voxel-wise analysis of anatomical magnetic resonance imaging data provided information on cross-sectional cervical cord area and volumetric brain changes in 30 individuals with chronic traumatic SCI and 31 healthy controls. Participants were clinically assessed including neurological examination and pain questionnaire. Compared to controls, individuals with SCI exhibited decreased cord area, reduced grey matter (GM) volumes in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), left insula, left secondary somatosensory cortex, bilateral thalamus, and decreased white matter volumes in pyramids and left internal capsule. The presence of NP was related with smaller cord area, increased GM in left ACC and right M1, and decreased GM in right primary somatosensory cortex and thalamus. Greater GM volume in M1 was associated with amount of NP. Below-level NP-associated structural changes in the spinal cord and brain can be discerned from trauma-induced consequences of SCI. The directionality of these relationships reveals specific changes across the neuroaxis (i.e., atrophic changes versus increases in volume) and may provide substrates of underlying neural mechanisms in the development of NP.