Object. Functional magnetic resonance (fMR) imaging of the motor cortex is a potentially powerful tool in the preoperative planning of surgical procedures in and around the rolandic region. Little is known about the patterns of fMR imaging activation associated with various pathological lesions in that region or their relation to motor skills before surgical intervention.
Methods. Twenty-two control volunteers and 44 patients whose pathologies included arteriovenous malformations (AVMs; 16 patients), congenital cortical abnormalities (11 patients), and tumors (17 patients) were studied using fMR imaging and a hand motor task paradigm. Activation maps were constructed for each participant, and changes in position or amplitude of the motor activation on the lesion side were compared with the activation pattern obtained in the contralateral hemisphere. A classification scheme of plasticity (Grades 1–6) based on interhemispheric pixel asymmetry and displacement of activation was used to compare maps between patients, and relative to hand motor dexterity and/or weakness.
There was 89.4% interobserver agreement on classification of patterns of fMR imaging activation. Displacement of activation by mass effect was more likely with tumors. Cortical malformations offer a much higher functional reorganization than AVMs or tumors. High-grade plasticity is recruited to compensate for severe motor impairment.
Conclusions. Pattern modification of fMR imaging activation can be systematized in a classification of motor cortex plasticity. This classification has shown good correlation among grading, brain lesions, and motor skills. This proposal of a classification scheme, in addition to facilitating data collection and processing from different institutions, is well suited for comparing risks associated with surgical intervention and patterns of functional recovery in relation to preoperative fMR imaging categorization. Such studies are underway at the authors' institution.