Longitudinal fMRI studies: Exploring brain plasticity and repair in MS

Christian Enzinger, Daniela Pinter, Maria A. Rocca, John De Luca, Jaume Sastre-Garriga, Bertrand Audoin, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has greatly advanced our understanding of cerebral functional changes occurring in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, most of our knowledge regarding brain plasticity and repair in MS as evidenced by fMRI has been extrapolated from cross-sectional studies across different phenotypes of the disease. This topical review provides an overview of this research, but also highlights limitations of existing fMRI studies with cross-sectional design. We then review the few existing longitudinal fMRI studies and discuss the feasibility and constraints of serial fMRI in individuals with MS. We further emphasize the potential to track fMRI changes in evolving disease and the insights this may give in terms of mechanisms of adaptation and repair, focusing on serial fMRI to monitor response to disease-modifying therapies or rehabilitation interventions. Finally, we offer recommendations for designing future research studies to overcome previous methodological shortcomings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-278
Number of pages10
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Brain plasticity
  • Brain repair
  • fMRI
  • Longitudinal
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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