News | Radiology Imaging | July 02, 2015

Imaging Study Shows the Spinal Cord Learns On Its Own

3.0T functional MRI allows first simultaneous imaging of the brain and spinal column

spinal cord, learning, fMRI, University of Montreal

July 2, 2015 - The spinal cord engages in its own learning of motor tasks independent of the brain, according to an imaging study published June 30th in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology. The results of the study - conducted by Shahabeddin Vahdat, Ph.D., Ovidiu Lungu, and principal investigator Julien Doyon, Ph.D., of the University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada - may offer new opportunities for rehabilitation after spinal cord injury.

Learning a complex motor task, such as touch typing or playing the piano, induces changes in the brain, which can be monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During learning, sensory information and motor commands pass through the spinal cord, but to date it has been challenging to perform fMRI on the brain and spinal cord simultaneously, and thus it has been difficult to determine whether observed changes in the spinal cord during motor skill acquisition depend entirely on signals from the brain, or occur independently.

That barrier was overcome for the first time in this study by taking advantage of the fact that the 3.0T MRI scanner had a field of view long enough to image the brain and the cervical spinal cord, which relays signals to and from the hand muscles. Using this technique on subjects performing a complex finger tapping task, the authors showed that learning-related changes in blood flow in the spinal cord were independent of changes in blood flow in the brain regions involved in the task.

The results of the study indicate that the spinal cord plays an active role in the very earliest stages of motor learning. Future work will be needed to confirm that the changes seen in the spinal cord persist over time and generalize to other stages of learning and other forms of motor skills. The discovery of an independent role in learning for the spinal cord may provide new avenues for relearning motor tasks after spinal cord injury, when the connections between brain and cord are impaired.

For more information: www.plosbiology.org

Related Content

Chest X-ray AI Algorithm Correctly Identifies Lung Disease for Dubai Health Authority
Feature | Artificial Intelligence | April 17, 2018
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced the preliminary results of a chest X-ray artificial intelligence (AI)...
First Patient Treated in Online Adaptive Radiotherapy Trial With CyberKnife System
News | Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) | April 06, 2018
Accuray Inc. and Erasmus MC announced the first patient has been successfully treated using an online-adaptive (OA)...
News | Endoscopes | April 02, 2018
Results from a recent prospective trial found the Wide Area Transepithelial Sampling with 3D Tissue Analysis (WATS3D)...
Edwards Completes Enrollment in PARTNER 3 Low-Risk CT Sub-Study
News | Computed Tomography (CT) | March 27, 2018
March 27, 2018 — Edwards Lifesciences Corp.
Combination Radiotherapy Beneficial in Treating Prostate Cancer
News | Prostate Cancer | March 27, 2018
March 27, 2018 — While there are many treatment options for men with...
3-D Printed Models Improve Medical Student Training
News | Medical 3-D Printing | March 23, 2018
March 23, 2018 — A relatively inexpensive...
What is the cost of interrupting a radiologist?
News | Clinical Study | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 – A first of its kind study...
Overlay Init