The noted disruption of thalamocortical connections and abnormalities in tactile sensory function has resulted in a new definition of cerebral palsy (CP) that recognizes the sensorimotor integration process as central to the motor impairments seen in these children. Despite this updated definition, the connection between a child’s motor impairments and somatosensory processing remains almost entirely unknown. In this investigation, we explored the relationship between the magnitude of neural activity within the somatosensory cortices, the strength of the ankle plantarflexors, and the gait spatiotemporal kinematics of a group of children with CP and a typically developing matched cohort. Our results revealed that the magnitude of somatosensory cortical activity in children with CP had a strong positive relationship with the ankle strength, step length, and walking speed. These results suggest that stronger activity within the somatosensory cortices in response to foot somatosensations was related to enhanced ankle plantarflexor strength and improved mobility in the children with CP. These results provide further support for the notion that children with CP exhibit, not only musculoskeletal deficits, but also somatosensory deficits that potentially contribute to their overall functional mobility and strength limitations.
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