Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of the Motor Cortex in Cervical Myelopathy
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Alterations in motor function in cervical myelopathy secondary to degenerative disease may be due to local effects of spinal compression or distal effects related to cortical reorganization. This prospective study characterizes differences in metabolite levels in the motor cortex, specifically N-acetylaspartate, creatine, choline, myo-inositol and glutamate plus glutamine, due to alterations in cortical function in patients with reversible spinal cord compression compared with healthy controls. We hypothesized that N-acetylaspartate/creatine levels would be decreased in the motor cortex of patients with cervical myelopathy due to reduced neuronal integrity/function and myo-inositol/creatine levels would be increased due to reactive gliosis. Twenty-four patients with cervical myelopathy and 11 healthy controls underwent proton-magnetic resonance spectroscopy on a 3.0 Tesla Siemens Magnetom Tim Trio MRI. Areas of activation from functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of a finger-tapping paradigm were used to localize a voxel on the side of greater motor deficit in the myelopathy group (n = 10 on right side and n = 14 on left side of the brain) and on each side of the motor cortex in controls. Neurological function was measured with the Neck Disability Index, modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association and American Spinal Injury Association questionnaires. Metabolite levels were measured relative to total creatine within the voxel of interest. No metabolite differences were detected between the right side and left side of the motor cortex in controls. The myelopathy group had significantly decreased neurological function compared with the control group (Neck Disability Index: P < 0.001 and modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association: P < 0.001). There was a significant decrease in the N-acetylaspartate/creatine metabolite ratio in the motor cortex of the myelopathy group (1.21 ± 0.07) compared with the right (1.37 ± 0.03; P = 0.01) and left (1.38 ± 0.03; P = 0.007) motor cortex in controls suggesting neuronal damage or dysfunction distal to the lesion in the spine. No difference was observed in levels of myo-inositol/creatine. Thus, cortical levels of N-acetylaspartate/creatine may be a meaningful biomarker in cervical myelopathy, indicative of neuronal damage or dysfunction.