Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

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P0639 - Sensorimotor cerebellar functional connectivity changes as compensatory  mechanisms of structural damage in patients with MS and no disability (ID 1777)

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The cerebellum plays a relevant role in both motor and cognitive function due to the high number of cerebellar connections with the brain and spinal cord. Alterations in cerebellar functional connectivity may modulate the relationship between brain structural damage and clinical impairment in multiple sclerosis.


To investigate whether resting-state functional connectivity changes of the sensorimotor cerebellum represent adaptive neuroplastic mechanisms to reduce the effects of structural damage on physical disability in patients with multiple sclerosis and no disability.


A total of 144 multiple sclerosis patients with a score of ‚ȧ1.5 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale and 98 healthy subjects were selected from the Italian Neuroimaging Network Initiative database and included in this study. Both patients and healthy subjects underwent multimodal 3T-MRI including functional MRI at rest. After parcellation of the cerebellum, the sensorimotor cerebellum (lobules I-V + VIII) was identified and used as a seed for resting-state functional connectivity analysis.


In patients, brain areas with decreased and increased sensorimotor cerebellar functional connectivity were found to coexist with respect to healthy subjects. Areas of decreased cerebellar functional connectivity, i.e. the lingual gyrus, insula, and precentral and postcentral gyri, negatively correlated with T2 lesion load and white matter atrophy. Areas of increased cerebellar functional connectivity, i.e. the posterior cerebellum, nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex, cingulate/paracingulate gyri, and precuneus, positively correlated with T2 lesion load and cerebellar and thalamic atrophy. Areas of increased cerebellar functional connectivity with the cingulate gyrus and precuneus negatively correlated with global grey and white matter atrophy.


In patients with multiple sclerosis, the sensorimotor cerebellum extensively reorganizes its functional links with other brain regions. Areas of decreased cerebellar functional connectivity related to white matter damage are present even in the absence of clinical manifestations and may represent a preclinical condition. Areas of increased cerebellar functional connectivity related to both lesion burden and thalamic or cerebellar atrophy likely represent a compensative reorganization of brain circuits. Lastly, global atrophy may influence functional connectivity changes in posterior cortical areas.