Limb-specific thalamocortical tracts are impaired differently in hemiplegic and diplegic subtypes of cerebral palsy

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Thalamocortical pathways are considered crucial in the sensorimotor functioning of children with cerebral palsy (CP). However, previous research has been limited by non-specific tractography seeding and the lack of comparison between different CP subtypes. We compared limb-specific thalamocortical tracts between children with hemiplegic (HP, N = 15) or diplegic (DP, N = 10) CP and typically developed peers (N = 19). The cortical seed-points for the upper and lower extremities were selected (i) manually based on anatomical landmarks or (ii) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activations following proprioceptive-limb stimulation. Correlations were investigated between tract structure (mean diffusivity, MD; fractional anisotropy, FA; apparent fiber density, AFD) and sensorimotor performance (hand skill and postural stability). Compared to controls, our results revealed increased MD in both upper and lower limb thalamocortical tracts in the non-dominant hemisphere in HP and bilaterally in DP subgroup. MD was strongly lateralized in participants with hemiplegia, while AFD seemed lateralized only in controls. fMRI-based tractography results were comparable. The correlation analysis indicated an association between the white matter structure and sensorimotor performance. These findings suggest distinct impairment of functionally relevant thalamocortical pathways in HP and DP subtypes. Thus, the organization of thalamocortical white matter tracts may offer valuable guidance for targeted, life-long rehabilitation in children with CP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10245-10257
Number of pages13
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number19
Early online date18 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Diffusion MRI
  • FMRI-seeding
  • Sensorimotor performance
  • Stability
  • Tractography


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