Use of functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify cortical loci for lower limb movements and their efficacy for individuals after stroke

Minseok Choi, Hyun Chul Kim, Inchan Youn, Song Joo Lee, Jong Hwan Lee

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Background: Identification of cortical loci for lower limb movements for stroke rehabilitation is crucial for better rehabilitation outcomes via noninvasive brain stimulation by targeting the fine-grained cortical loci of the movements. However, identification of the cortical loci for lower limb movements using functional MRI (fMRI) is challenging due to head motion and difficulty in isolating different types of movement. Therefore, we developed a custom-made MR-compatible footplate and leg cushion to identify the cortical loci for lower limb movements and conducted multivariate analysis on the fMRI data. We evaluated the validity of the identified loci using both fMRI and behavioral data, obtained from healthy participants as well as individuals after stroke. Methods: We recruited 33 healthy participants who performed four different lower limb movements (ankle dorsiflexion, ankle rotation, knee extension, and toe flexion) using our custom-built equipment while fMRI data were acquired. A subgroup of these participants (Dataset 1; n = 21) was used to identify the cortical loci associated with each lower limb movement in the paracentral lobule (PCL) using multivoxel pattern analysis and representational similarity analysis. The identified cortical loci were then evaluated using the remaining healthy participants (Dataset 2; n = 11), for whom the laterality index (LI) was calculated for each lower limb movement using the cortical loci identified for the left and right lower limbs. In addition, we acquired a dataset from 15 individuals with chronic stroke for regression analysis using the LI and the Fugl–Meyer Assessment (FMA) scale. Results: The cortical loci associated with the lower limb movements were hierarchically organized in the medial wall of the PCL following the cortical homunculus. The LI was clearer using the identified cortical loci than using the PCL. The healthy participants (mean ± standard deviation: 0.12 ± 0.30; range: – 0.63 to 0.91) exhibited a higher contralateral LI than the individuals after stroke (0.07 ± 0.47; – 0.83 to 0.97). The corresponding LI scores for individuals after stroke showed a significant positive correlation with the FMA scale for paretic side movement in ankle dorsiflexion (R2 = 0.33, p = 0.025) and toe flexion (R2 = 0.37, p = 0.016). Conclusions: The cortical loci associated with lower limb movements in the PCL identified in healthy participants were validated using independent groups of healthy participants and individuals after stroke. Our findings suggest that these cortical loci may be beneficial for the neurorehabilitation of lower limb movement in individuals after stroke, such as in developing effective rehabilitation interventions guided by the LI scores obtained for neuronal activations calculated from the identified cortical loci across the paretic and non-paretic sides of the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Functional MRI
  • Lower limb
  • Multivoxel pattern analysis
  • Paracentral lobule
  • Representational similarity analysis


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