Primary somatosensory/motor cortical thickness distinguishes paresthesia-dominant from pain-dominant carpal tunnel syndrome

Yumi Maeda, Norman Kettner, Jieun Kim, Hyungjun Kim, Stephen Cina, Cristina Malatesta, Jessica Gerber, Claire Mcmanus, Alexandra Libby, Pia Mezzacappa, Ishtiaq Mawla, Leslie R. Morse, Joseph Audette, Vitaly Napadow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Paresthesia-dominant and pain-dominant subgroups have been noted in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a peripheral neuropathic disorder characterized by altered primary somatosensory/motor (S1/M1) physiology. We aimed to investigate whether brain morphometry dissociates these subgroups. Subjects with CTS were evaluated with nerve conduction studies, whereas symptom severity ratings were used to allocate subjects into paresthesia-dominant (CTS-paresthesia), pain-dominant (CTS-pain), and pain/paresthesia nondominant (not included in further analysis) subgroups. Structural brain magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired at 3T using a multiecho MPRAGE T1-weighted pulse sequence, and gray matter cortical thickness was calculated across the entire brain using validated, automated methods. CTS-paresthesia subjects demonstrated reduced median sensory nerve conduction velocity (P 0.05) compared with CTS-pain subjects. In addition, cortical thickness in precentral and postcentral gyri (S1/M1 hand area) contralateral to the more affected hand was significantly reduced in CTS-paresthesia subgroup compared with CTS-pain subgroup. Moreover, in CTS-paresthesia subjects, precentral cortical thickness was negatively correlated with paresthesia severity (r(34) -0.40, P 0.016) and positively correlated with median nerve sensory velocity (r(36) 0.51, P 0.001), but not with pain severity. Conversely, in CTS-pain subjects, contralesional S1 (r(9) 0.62, P 0.042) and M1 (r(9) 0.61, P 0.046) cortical thickness were correlated with pain severity, but not median nerve velocity or paresthesia severity. This double dissociation in somatotopically specific S1/M1 areas suggests a neuroanatomical substrate for symptom-based CTS subgroups. Such fine-grained subgrouping of CTS may lead to improved personalized therapeutic approaches, based on superior characterization of the linkage between peripheral and central neuroplasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1093
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the following NIH grants: R01-AT004714, R01-AT004714-02S1, P01-AT002048, P41EB015896, S10-RR021110, S10RR023401, and S10-RR023043.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 International Association for the Study of Pain.


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Entrapment neuropathy
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Paresthesia
  • Primary somatosensory/motor cortex


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