supernumerary phantom limb (spl) designates the experience of an illusory additional limb occurring after brain damage. functional neuroimaging during spl movements documented increased response in the ipsilesional supplementary motor area (sma), premotor cortex (pmc), thalamus and caudate. this suggested that motor circuits are important for bodily related cognition, but anatomical evidence is sparse. here, we tested this hypothesis by studying an extremely rare patient with chronic spl, still present 3 years after a vascular stroke affecting cortical and subcortical right-hemisphere structures. anatomical analysis included an advanced in vivo reconstruction of white matter tracts using diffusion-based spherical deconvolution. this reconstruction demonstrated a massive and relatively selective disconnection between anatomically preserved sma/pmc and the thalamus. our results provide strong anatomical support for the hypothesis that cortico-thalamic loops involving motor-related circuits are crucial to integrate sensorimotor processing with bodily self-awareness.
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