Previous animal models have illustrated that reduced cortical activity in the developing brain has cascading activity-dependent effects on the microstructural organization of the spinal cord. A limited number of studies have attempted to translate these findings to humans with cerebral palsy (CP). Essentially, the aberrations in sensorimotor cortical activity in those with CP could have an adverse effect on the spinal cord microstructure. To investigate this knowledge gap, we utilized magnetoencephalographic (MEG) brain imaging to quantify motor-related oscillatory activity in fourteen adults with CP and sixteen neurotypical (NT) controls. A subset of these participants also underwent cervical-thoracic spinal cord MRI. Our results showed that the strength of the peri-movement beta desynchronization and the post-movement beta rebound were each weaker in the adults with CP relative to the controls, and these weakened responses were associated with poorer task performance. Additionally, our results showed that the strength of the peri-movement beta response was associated with the total cross-sectional area of the spinal cord and the white matter cross-sectional area. Altogether these results suggest that the altered sensorimotor cortical activity seen in CP may result in activity-dependent plastic changes within the spinal cord microstructure, which could ultimately contribute to the sensorimotor deficits seen in this population.
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