Neural connectivity has recently been shown to be altered after spinal cord injury (SCI) not only in the spinal cord but also in the brain. However, to date, no studies have analyzed the functional alterations after SCI in various areas of the cerebral cortex over time. To examine the plasticity of the neural connectivity in the brain after SCI, we performed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) in awake adult mice pre- and post-SCI. After a complete thoracic SCI, the functional connectivity between the primary motor (MOp) and primary sensory (SSp) areas was significantly decreased during the chronic phase. In contrast, the connectivity between the MOp and motivation area was increased. Thus, impairments in sensory and motor connections after SCI led to a time-dependent compensatory upregulation of “motor functional motivation”. Moreover, the functional connectivity between the SSp and pain-related areas, such as the caudoputamen (CP) and the anterior cingulate area (ACA), was strengthened during the chronic phase, thus suggesting that rs-fMRI can indicate the presence of neuropathic pain after SCI. Therefore, rs-fMRI is a useful tool for revealing the pathological changes that occur in the brain after SCI.
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