Functional and structural cortical characteristics after restricted focal motor cortical infarction evaluated at chronic stage - Indications from a preliminary study


OBJECTIVE: To assess the inter-hemispheric differences in neuronal function and structure of the motor cortex in a small group of chronic stroke patients having suffered a restricted ischemic lesion affecting hand motor representation. GABAergic intracortical inhibition, known to be affected by stroke lesion, was also investigated. METHODS: Eight patients exhibiting little or no motor impairment were studied using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) >15months from diagnosis. Resting motor threshold (MT) for 50μV and 2mV motor evoked potentials, and short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) were measured from hand muscles. Apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) were analyzed from the DWI for the primary motor cortex (M1), the supplementary motor area (SMA) and thalamus for reflecting changes in neuronal organization. RESULTS: The MTs did not differ between the affected (AH) and unaffected hemisphere (UH) in 50μV responses, while the MTs for 2mV responses were higher (p=0.018) in AH. SICI was weakened in AH (p=0.008). ADCs were higher in the affected M1 compared to the unaffected M1 (p=0.018) while there were no inter-hemispheric differences in SMA or thalamus. CONCLUSIONS: Inter-hemispheric asymmetry and neuronal organization demonstrated abnormalities in the M1. However, no confident inference can be made whether the observed alterations in neurophysiological and imaging measures have causal role for motor rehabilitation in these patients. SIGNIFICANCE: Neurophysiological changes persist and are detectable using TMS years after stroke even though clinical symptoms have normalized.

Clinical Neurophysiology