Despite 253,000 spinal cord injury (SCI) patients in the United States, little is known about how SCI affects brain networks. Spinal MRI provides only structural information with no insight into functional connectivity. Resting-state functional MRI (RS-fMRI) quantifies network connectivity through the identification of resting-state networks (RSNs) and allows detection of functionally relevant changes during disease. Given the robust network of spinal cord afferents to the brain, we hypothesized that SCI produces meaningful changes in brain RSNs. RS-fMRIs and functional assessments were performed on 10 SCI subjects. Blood oxygen-dependent RS-fMRI sequences were acquired. Seed-based correlation mapping was performed using five RSNs: default-mode (DMN), dorsal-attention (DAN), salience (SAL), control (CON), and somatomotor (SMN). RSNs were compared with normal control subjects using false-discovery rate-corrected two way t tests. SCI reduced brain network connectivity within the SAL, SMN, and DMN and disrupted anti-correlated connectivity between CON and SMN. When divided into separate cohorts, complete but not incomplete SCI disrupted connectivity within SAL, DAN, SMN and DMN and between CON and SMN. Finally, connectivity changed over time after SCI: the primary motor cortex decreased connectivity with the primary somatosensory cortex, the visual cortex decreased connectivity with the primary motor cortex, and the visual cortex decreased connectivity with the sensory parietal cortex. These unique findings demonstrate the functional network plasticity that occurs in the brain as a result of injury to the spinal cord. Connectivity changes after SCI may serve as biomarkers to predict functional recovery following an SCI and guide future therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-873
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2018


  • MRI
  • SCI
  • biomarkers
  • neuroplasticity


Dive into the research topics of 'Spinal Cord Injury Disrupts Resting-State Networks in the Human Brain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this