Differences in Neuronal Representation of Mental Rotation in Patients With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Healthy Controls
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Spatial integration of parts of the body is impaired in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Because the training of mental rotation (MR) has been shown to be among the effective therapy strategies for CRPS, impairment of MR is also important for the pathophysiological understanding of CRPS. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether differences in the neural representation of MR occur between patients with CRPS and healthy controls (HC). Therefore, we included 15 patients with chronic CRPS and 15 age- and gender-matched HC. We assessed behavioral (accuracy and reaction time for MR of both hands), clinical (Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire) and magnetic resonance imaging (T1-weighted, function magnetic resonance imaging during MR) data. Reaction times in the patient group were delayed compared with HC without a lateralization effect for the affected hand side. Although both groups showed an activation pattern typical for MR, only HC showed a highly significant contrast for the rotated versus unrotated hands in the right intraparietal sulcus. Patients with CRPS showed a reduction of functional magnetic resonance imaging activation in areas including the subthalamic nucleus, nucleus accumbens, and putamen. Regression analysis for the CRPS group emphasized the importance of putamen and nucleus accumbens activation for MR performance. This study highlights the reduced access of patients with CRPS for mental resources modulating arousal, emotional response, and subcortical sensorimotor integration. PERSPECTIVE: This study localized the underlying neural responses for impaired mental rotation in patients with complex regional pain syndrome as a decrease in basal ganglia (putamen) and nucleus accumbens activation.