Cerebral changes after injury to the median nerve: A long-term follow up

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Injury to the peripheral nerves in the upper extremity results in changes in the nerve, and at multiple sites throughout the central nervous system (CNS). We studied the long-term effects of an injury to the median nerve in the forearm with a focus on changes in the CNS. Four patients with isolated injuries of the median nerve in their 20s were examined a mean of 14 years after the injury. Cortical activation was monitored during tactile stimulation of the fingers of the injured and healthy hand using functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 Tesla. The neurophysiological state and clinical outcome were also examined. Activation in the primary somatosensory cortex was substantially larger during tactile stimulation of the injured hand than with stimulation of the uninjured hand. We also saw a redistribution of hemispheric dominance. Stimulation of the injured median nerve resulted in a substantially increased dominance of the contralateral hemisphere. However, stimulation of the healthy ulnar nerve resulted in a decreased dominance of the contralateral hemisphere. Neurophysiology showed low sensory amplitudes, velocity, and increased motor latency in the injured nerve. Clinically there were abnormalities predominately in the sensory domain. However, there was an overall improved mean result compared with a five year follow-up in the same subjects. The cortical changes could be the result of cortical reorganisation after a changed afferent signal pattern from the injured nerve. Even though the clinical function improved over time it did not return to normal, and neither did the cortical response.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Surgery


  • median nerve, injury, sensory, motor, fMRI, neurophysiology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
JournalJournal of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch

Related research output

Anette Chemnitz, 2013, Hand Surgery Research Group. 63 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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