Structural and functional cortical connectivity mediating cross education of motor function

Ruddy, Kathy L., Leemans, Alexander, Woolley, Daniel G., Wenderoth, Nicole, Carson, Richard G.


Journal of Neuroscience 37 (10), p. 2555-2564


Cross-education (CE) is the process whereby training with one limb leads to subsequent improvement in performance by the opposite untrained limb. We used multimodal neuroimaging in humans to investigate the mediating neural mechanisms by relating quantitative estimates of functional and structural cortical connectivity to individual levels of interlimb transfer. Resting-state (rs)-fMRI and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) scans were undertaken before unilateral ballistic wrist flexion training. The rs-fMRI sequence was repeated immediately afterward. The increase in performance of the untrained limb was 83.6% of that observed for the trained limb and significantly greater than that of a control group who undertook no training. Functional connectivity in the resting motor network between right and left supplementary motor areas (SMA) was elevated after training. These changes were not, however, correlated with individual levels of transfer. Analysis of the DWI data using constrained spherical deconvolution-based tractography indicated that fractional anisotropy and apparent fiber density in tracts connecting bilateral SMA were negatively correlated with and predictive of transfer. The findings suggest that interhemispheric interactions between bilateral SMA play an instrumental role in CE and that the structural integrity of the connecting white matter pathways influences the level of transfer.