Objectives To (i) investigate alterations in homotopic functional connectivity (hfc) in concussed patients relative to healthy controls (HC) and to (ii) interrogate whether hfc in concussed patients normalized during the recovery process. The relationship between symptom recovery and change in hfc was assessed using post-hoc analyses. Methods This study included 15 concussed patients (mean age = 39.1, SD = 10.1; sex: 13 females, 2 males) and 15 HC (mean age = 39.1, SD = 11.7; sex: 13 females, 2 males). Hfc patterns were interrogated using resting-state magnetic resonance imaging (rs-MRI) for 29 a priori selected pain-processing regions. Concussed patients underwent imaging at two time-points; at 1-month post-concussion (mean time following concussion: 28 days, SD = 9.5) and again at 5-months post-concussion (mean time following concussion: 121 days, SD = 13). At both time-points, symptoms associated with concussion were assessed using the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT-3). Results Concussed patients had significantly weaker hfc in the following six regions 1-month post-concussion compared to HC: middle cingulate, posterior insula, middle occipital, spinal trigeminal nucleus, precentral and the pulvinar. There were no regions of significantly stronger hfc in concussed patients relative to HC. Longitudinally, patients showed significant symptom recovery 5-months post-concussion and had significant strengthening of hfc patterns in seven homotopic ROIs: middle cingulate, posterior insula, middle occipital, secondary somatosensory area, spinal trigeminal nucleus, precentral, and the pulvinar. Post-hoc analyses indicated a significant negative correlation between somatosensory functional connectivity strengthening and symptom severity. Conclusion At 1-month post-concussion, patients had significantly weaker hfc in a number of pain-processing regions relative to HC. However, over a period of 5-months, region-pair connectivity showed significant recovery and normalization. Those patients with more successful symptom recovery at 5-months post-concussion had more functional somatosensory strengthening, suggesting an association between functional strengthening and post-concussion symptom recovery.
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