DOI: 10.1002/hbm.26458 ISSN:

Spatial distribution of hand‐grasp motor task activity in spinal cord functional magnetic resonance imaging

Kimberly J. Hemmerling, Mark A. Hoggarth, Milap S. Sandhu, Todd B. Parrish, Molly G. Bright
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Neurology
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Anatomy


Upper extremity motor paradigms during spinal cord functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can provide insight into the functional organization of the cord. Hand‐grasping is an important daily function with clinical significance, but previous studies of similar squeezing movements have not reported consistent areas of activity and are limited by sample size and simplistic analysis methods. Here, we study spinal cord fMRI activation using a unimanual isometric hand‐grasping task that is calibrated to participant maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). Two task modeling methods were considered: (1) a task regressor derived from an idealized block design (Ideal) and (2) a task regressor based on the recorded force trace normalized to individual MVC (%MVC). Across these two methods, group motor activity was highly lateralized to the hemicord ipsilateral to the side of the task. Activation spanned C5–C8 and was primarily localized to the C7 spinal cord segment. Specific differences in spatial distribution are also observed, such as an increase in C8 and dorsal cord activity when using the %MVC regressor. Furthermore, we explored the impact of data quantity and spatial smoothing on sensitivity to hand‐grasp motor task activation. This analysis shows a large increase in number of active voxels associated with the number of fMRI runs, sample size, and spatial smoothing, demonstrating the impact of experimental design choices on motor activation.

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