PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review will highlight the latest findings from neuroimaging studies that track structural and functional changes within the central nervous system at both the brain and spinal cord levels following acute human spinal cord injury (SCI). The putative, underlying biological mechanisms of structural change (e.g. degradation of neural tissue) rostral to the lesion site will be discussed in relation to animal models of SCI and their potential value in clinical studies of human SCI.
RECENT FINDINGS: Recent prospective studies in human acute SCI have begun to reveal the time-course, spatial distribution and extent of structural changes following an acute SCI and their relation to functional outcome. Adaptive changes in sensory and motor pathways above the level of the lesion have prognostic value and complement clinical readouts.
SUMMARY: The introduction of sensitive neuroimaging biomarkers will be an essential step forward in the implementation of interventional trials in which proof-of-concept is currently limited to clinical readouts, but more responsive measures are required to improve the sensitivity of clinical trials.