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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017, Article ID 5270532, 11 pages
Research Article

Regionally Specific Regulation of Sensorimotor Network Connectivity Following Tactile Improvement

1Department of Neurology, BG University Hospital Bergmannsheil, Bürkle-de-la-Camp-Platz 1, 44789 Bochum, Germany
2Institute for Neuroinformatics, Neural Plasticity Lab, Ruhr-University Bochum, Universitätsstr. 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany
3Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 601 North Caroline Street, Baltimore, MD 21287-0006, USA
4F.M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
5Department of Neurology, St. Mauritius Therapieklinik, Lehrkrankenhaus der Universität Düsseldorf, 40670 Meerbusch, Germany
6Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Psychology, University of Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to Stefanie Heba; ed.bur@abeh.einafets

Received 23 June 2017; Accepted 28 September 2017; Published 2 November 2017

Academic Editor: J. Michael Wyss

Copyright © 2017 Stefanie Heba et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Correlations between inherent, task-free low-frequency fluctuations in the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signals of the brain provide a potent tool to delineate its functional architecture in terms of intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC). Still, it remains unclear how iFC is modulated during learning. We employed whole-brain resting-state magnetic resonance imaging prior to and after training-independent repetitive sensory stimulation (rSS), which is known to induce somatosensory cortical reorganization. We investigated which areas in the sensorimotor network are susceptible to neural plasticity (i.e., where changes in functional connectivity occurred) and where iFC might be indicative of enhanced tactile performance. We hypothesized iFC to increase in those brain regions primarily receiving the afferent tactile input. Strengthened intrinsic connectivity within the sensorimotor network after rSS was found not only in the postcentral gyrus contralateral to the stimulated hand, but also in associative brain regions, where iFC correlated positively with tactile performance or learning. We also observed that rSS led to attenuation of the network at higher cortical levels, which possibly promotes facilitation of tactile discrimination. We found that resting-state BOLD fluctuations are linked to behavioral performance and sensory learning, indicating that network fluctuations at rest are predictive of behavioral changes and neuroplasticity.