Brain Function and Upper Limb Outcome in Stroke: A Cross-Sectional fMRI Study

F.E. Buma, M. Raemaekers, G. Kwakkel, N.F. Ramsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The nature of changes in brain activation related to good recovery of arm function after stroke is still unclear. While the notion that this is a reflection of neuronal plasticity has gained much support, confounding by compensatory strategies cannot be ruled out. We address this issue by comparing brain activity in recovered patients 6 months after stroke with healthy controls. Methods: We included 20 patients with upper limb paresis due to ischemic stroke and 15 controls. We measured brain activation during a finger flexion-extension task with functional MRI, and the relationship between brain activation and hand function. Patients exhibited various levels of recovery, but all were able to perform the task. Results: Comparison between patients and controls with voxel-wise whole-brain analysis failed to reveal significant differences in brain activation. Equally, a region of interest analysis constrained to the motor network to optimize statistical power, failed to yield any differences. Finally, no significant relationship between brain activation and hand function was found in patients. Patients and controls performed scanner task equally well. Conclusion: Brain activation and behavioral performance during finger flexion-extensions in (moderately) well recovered patients seems normal. The absence of significant differences in brain activity even in patients with a residual impairment may suggest that infarcts do not necessarily induce reorganization of motor function. While brain activity could be abnormal with higher task demands, this may also introduce performance confounds. It is thus still uncertain to what extent capacity for true neuronal repair after stroke exists.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0139746
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this