Task- and resting-state fMRI studies in multiple sclerosis: From regions to systems and time-varying analysis. Current status and future perspective

Maria A. Rocca, Menno M. Schoonheim, Paola Valsasina, Jeroen J. G. Geurts, Massimo Filippi

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system and features extensive functional brain changes that are poorly understood but relate strongly to clinical impairments. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive, powerful technique able to map activity of brain regions and to assess how such regions interact for an efficient brain network. FMRI has been widely applied to study functional brain changes in MS, allowing to investigate functional plasticity consequent to disease-related structural injury. The first studies in MS using active fMRI tasks mainly aimed to study such plastic changes by identifying abnormal activity in salient brain regions (or systems) involved by the task. In later studies the focus shifted towards resting state (RS) functional connectivity (FC) studies, which aimed to map large-scale functional networks of the brain and to establish how MS pathology impairs functional integration, eventually leading to the hypothesized network collapse as patients clinically progress. This review provides a summary of the main findings from studies using task-based and RS fMRI and illustrates how functional brain alterations relate to clinical disability and cognitive deficits in this condition. We also give an overview of longitudinal studies that used task-based and RS fMRI to monitor disease evolution and effects of motor and cognitive rehabilitation. In addition, we discuss the results of studies using newer technologies involving time-varying FC to investigate abnormal dynamism and flexibility of network configurations in MS. Finally, we show some preliminary results from two recent topics (i.e., multimodal MRI analysis and artificial intelligence) that are receiving increasing attention. Together, these functional studies could provide new (conceptual) insights into disease stage-specific mechanisms underlying progression in MS, with recommendations for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103076
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Functional MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Resting-state fMRI
  • Task fMRI

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