OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of a transverse spinal cord lesion on cerebral energy metabolism in view of sensorimotor reorganisation. METHODS: PET and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose were used to study resting cerebral glucose metabolism in 11 patients with complete paraplegia or tetraplegia after spinal cord injury and 12 healthy subjects. Regions of interest analysis was performed to determine global glucose metabolism (CMRGlu). Statistical parametric mapping was applied to compare both groups on a pixel by pixel basis (significance level P = 0.001). RESULTS: Global absolute CMRGlu was lower in spinal cord injury (33.6 (6.6) mumol/100 ml/min (mean (SD)) than in controls (45.6 (6.2), Mann-Whitney P = 0.0026). Statistical parametric mapping analysis disclosed relatively increased glucose metabolism particularly in the supplementary motor area, anterior cingulate, and putamen. Relatively reduced glucose metabolism in patients with spinal cord injury was found in the midbrain, cerebellar hemispheres, and temporal cortex. CONCLUSIONS: It is assumed that cerebral deafferentiation due to reduction or loss of sensorimotor function results in the low level of absolute global CMRGlu found in patients with spinal cord injury. Relatively increased glucose metabolism in brain regions involved in attention and initiation of movement may be related to secondary disinhibition of these regions.
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