Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differences in somatosensory processing due to dominant hemispheric motor impairment in cerebral palsy

Inmaculada Riquelme12, Iván Padrón3, Ignasi Cifre1, Ana M González-Roldán1 and Pedro Montoya1*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS), University of the Balearic Islands, Carretera de Valldemossa km 7.5, Palma 07122, Spain

2 Department of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Palma, Spain

3 Department of Developmental Psychology and Education, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-10

Published: 11 January 2014



Although cerebral palsy (CP) is usually defined as a group of permanent motor disorders due to non-progressive disturbances in the developing fetal or infant brain, recent research has shown that CP individuals are also characterized by altered somatosensory perception, increased pain and abnormal activation of cortical somatosensory areas. The present study was aimed to examine hemispheric differences on somatosensory brain processing in individuals with bilateral CP and lateralized motor impairments compared with healthy controls. Nine CP individuals with left-dominant motor impairments (LMI) (age range 5–28 yrs), nine CP individuals with right-dominant motor impairments (RMI) (age range 7–29 yrs), and 12 healthy controls (age range 5–30 yrs) participated in the study. Proprioception, touch and pain thresholds, as well as somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) elicited by tactile stimulation of right and left lips and thumbs were compared.


Pain sensitivity was higher, and lip stimulation elicited greater beta power and more symmetrical SEP amplitudes in individuals with CP than in healthy controls. In addition, although there was no significant differences between individuals with RMI and LMI on pain or touch sensitivity, lip and thumb stimulation elicited smaller beta power and more symmetrical SEP amplitudes in individuals with LMI than with RMI.


Our data revealed that brain processing of somatosensory stimulation was abnormal in CP individuals. Moreover, this processing was different depending if they presented right- or left-dominant motor impairments, suggesting that different mechanisms of sensorimotor reorganization should be involved in CP depending on dominant side of motor impairment.

Somatosensory processing; Cerebral palsy; Motor impairment; Hemispheric asymmetry