Preserved foot motor cortex in patients with complete spinal cord injury: A functional near-infrared spectroscopic study


Background. Since the brain is intact, persons with a spinal cord injury (SCI) might benefit from a brain-computer interface (BCI) to improve mobility by making use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Objective. We aimed to use fNIRS to detect contralateral primary motor cortex activity during attempted foot movements in participants with complete SCI. Methods. A 6-channel fNIRS, including 2 reference channels, measured relative concentration changes of oxy- (HbO) and deoxy-hemoglobin (HbR) in the contralateral motor cortex for the right foot. Seven subjects, studied within 18 months after injury, performed 12 trials of attempted right foot and real hand movements. Results. T tests revealed significant HbO and HbR responses of the left motor cortex for attempted foot movements, but not for right hand movements. A 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a larger decrease in HbR for attempted foot movements compared to hand movements. Individual results show major interindividual differences in (number of) channels activated and the sensitive chromophore (HbR or HbO). Conclusions. On group level, activity in the motor cortex of the foot can be measured with fNIRS in patients with complete SCI during attempted foot movements and might in principle be used in future BCI studies and applications. © The Author(s) 2013.

Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair