Functional Neuroplasticity and Motor Skill Change Following Gross Motor Interventions for Children With Diplegic Cerebral Palsy

Paper by Alicia J. Hilderley, PhD et al


Background: Gross motor intervention designs for children with diplegic cerebral palsy (DCP) require an improved understanding of the children’s potential for neuroplasticity.

Objective: To identify relations between functional neuroplasticity and motor skill changes following gross motor interventions for children with DCP.

Methods: There were 17 participants with DCP (ages 8-16 years; 6 females; Gross Motor Function Classification System Level I [n = 9] and II [n = 8]). Each completed a 6-week gross motor intervention program that was directed toward achievement of individualized motor/physical activity goals. Outcomes were assessed pre/post and 4 to 6 months post-intervention (follow-up). An active ankle dorsiflexion task was completed during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The ratio of motor cortical activation volume in each hemisphere was calculated using a laterality index. The Challenge was the primary gross motor skill measure. Change over time and relations among outcomes were evaluated.

Results: Challenge scores improved post-intervention (4.57% points [SD 4.45], P = .004) and were maintained at follow-up (0.75% [SD 6.57], P = 1.000). The laterality index for dominant ankle dorsiflexion increased (P = .033), while non-dominant change was variable (P = .534). Contralateral activation (laterality index ≥+0.75) was most common for both ankles. Challenge improvements correlated with increased ipsilateral activity (negative laterality index) during non-dominant dorsiflexion (r = −.56, P = .045). Smaller activation volume during non-dominant dorsiflexion predicted continued gross motor gains at follow-up (R2 = .30, P = .040).

Conclusions: Motor cortical activation during non-dominant ankle dorsiflexion is a modest indicator of the potential for gross motor skill change. Further investigation of patterns of neuroplastic change will improve our understanding of effects.


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