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A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Paradigm to Identify Distinct Cortical Areas of Facial Function: A Reliable Localizer

Romeo, Marco M.D.; Vizioli, Luca Ph.D.; Breukink, Myrte M.D.; Aganloo, Kiomars M.D.; Lao, Junpeng; Cotrufo, Stefano Ph.D.; Caldara, Roberto Ph.D.; Morley, Stephen F.R.C.S.Plast.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: April 2013 - Volume 131 - Issue 4 - p 527e–533e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3182818b68
Reconstructive: Head and Neck: Original Articles

Background: Irreversible facial paralysis can be surgically treated by importing both a new neural and a new motor muscle supply. Various donor nerves can be used. If a nerve supply other than the facial nerve is used, the patient has to adapt to generate a smile. If branches of the fifth cranial nerve are used, the patient has to learn to clench teeth and smile. Currently, controversy exists regarding whether a patient develops a spontaneous smile if a nerve other than the facial nerve is used. The authors postulate that brain adaptation in facial palsy patients can occur because of neural plasticity. The authors aimed to determine whether functional magnetic resonance imaging could topographically differentiate activity between the facial nerve– and the trigeminal nerve–related cortical areas.

Methods: A new paradigm of study using functional magnetic resonance imaging based on blood oxygen level–dependent signal activation was tested on 15 voluntary healthy subjects to find a sensitive localizer for teeth clenching and smiling. Subjects smiled to stimulate the facial nerve–related cortex, clenched their jaws to stimulate the trigeminal nerve–related cortex, and tapped their finger as a control condition.

Results: Smiling and teeth clenching showed distinct and consistent areas of cortical activation. Trigeminal and facial motor cortex areas were found to be distinct areas with minimal overlapping.

Conclusions: The authors successfully devised a functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm effective for activating specific areas corresponding to teeth clenching and smiling. This will allow accurate mapping of cortical plasticity in facial reanimation patients.


Fribourg, Switzerland; Glasgow, United Kingdom; and Groningen, The Netherlands

From the Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg; the Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow; the Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit, Glasgow Royal Infirmary; and University Medical Center Groningen.

Received for publication July 26, 2012; accepted November 1, 2012.

Presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Plastic Surgeons, in Munich, Germany, May 24 through 26, 2012, and the 15th Annual Meeting of the European Conference of Scientists and Plastic Surgeons, in Pamplona, Spain, October 28 through 29, 2011.

Disclosure: The authors have no potential financial interests to declare.

Marco Romeo, M.D.; Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 84 Castle Street, G4 DSF Glasgow, Scotland,

©2013American Society of Plastic Surgeons