Background and purpose: In a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, it was investigated whether piracetam improves language recovery in poststroke aphasia assessed by neuropsychological tests and activation PET measurement of cerebral blood flow.
Methods: Twenty-four stroke patients with aphasia were randomly allocated to 2 groups: 12 patients received 2400 mg piracetam twice daily, 12 placebo. Before and at the end of the 6-week treatment period in which both groups received intensive speech therapy, the patients were examined neuropsychologically and studied with H(2)(15)O PET at rest and during activation with a word-repetition task. Blood flow was analyzed in 14 language-activated brain regions defined on reconstructed surface views from MRI coregistered to the PET images.
Results: Before treatment, both groups were comparable with respect to performance in language tasks and to type and severity of aphasia. In the piracetam group, increase of activation effect was significantly higher (P:<0.05) in the left transverse temporal gyrus, left triangular part of inferior frontal gyrus, and left posterior superior temporal gyrus after the treatment period compared with the initial measures. The placebo group showed an increase of activation effect only in the left vocalization area. In the test battery, the piracetam group improved in 6 language functions, the placebo group only in 3 subtests.
Conclusions: Piracetam as an adjuvant to speech therapy improves recovery of various language functions, and this effect is accompanied by a significant increase of task-related flow activation in eloquent areas of the left hemisphere.