Recovery from optic neuritis is associated with a change in the distribution of cerebral response to visual stimulation: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry

PubMedID: 10727479

Werring DJ, Bullmore ET, Toosy AT, Miller DH, Barker GJ, MacManus DG, Brammer MJ, Giampietro VP, Brusa A, Brex PA, Moseley IF, Plant GT, McDonald WI, Thompson AJ. Recovery from optic neuritis is associated with a change in the distribution of cerebral response to visual stimulation: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatr. 2000;68(4):441-9.
OBJECTIVES
Recovery to normal or near normal visual acuity is usual after acute demyelinating optic neuritis, despite the frequent persistence of conduction abnormalities as evidenced by the visual evoked potential (VEP). This raises the possibility that cortical adaptation to a persistently abnormal input contributes to the recovery process. The objective of this study was to investigate the pattern of cerebral response to a simple visual stimulus in recovered patients in comparison to normal subjects.

METHODS
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study the brain activation pattern induced by a periodic monocular 8Hz photic stimulus in seven patients who had recovered from a single episode of acute unilateral optic neuritis, and in seven normal controls. VEPs and structural optic nerve MRI were performed on patients.

RESULTS
Stimulation of either eye in controls activated only the occipital visual cortex. However, in patients, stimulation of the recovered eye also induced extensive activation in other areas including the insula-claustrum, lateral temporal and posterior parietal cortices, and thalamus; stimulation of the clinically unaffected eye activated visual cortex and right insula-claustrum only. The volume of extraoccipital activation in patients was strongly correlated with VEP latency (r = 0.71, p = 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS
The extraoccipital areas that were activated in patients all have extensive visual connections, and some have been proposed as sites of multimodal sensory integration. The results indicate a functional reorganisation of the cerebral response to simple visual stimuli after optic neuritis that may represent an adaptive response to a persistently abnormal input. Whether this is a necessary part of the recovery process remains to be determined.