Functional reorganization of the cerebral motor system after stroke

Curr Opin Neurol. 2004 Dec;17(6):725-30. doi: 10.1097/00019052-200412000-00013.


Purpose of review: Recovery of function after stroke is now widely considered to be a consequence of central nervous system reorganization. Non-invasive techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography now allow the study of the working human brain. Studies in stroke patients can now address how cerebral networks in the human brain respond to focal injury and whether these changes are related to functional recovery. This understanding may in turn lead to the development of techniques that will drive cerebral reorganization in a way that promotes functional improvement.

Recent findings: The relationship between cerebral reorganization and functional recovery has been examined in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. It appears that the motor system reacts to damage in a way that attempts to generate motor output through surviving brain regions and networks. There are changes in cortical excitability after stroke that may provide the substrate whereby the effects of motor practice or experience can be more effective in driving long lasting changes in motor networks. This will be particularly important in intact portions of neural networks subserving motor skills learning.

Summary: Functionally relevant adaptive changes occur in the human brain following focal damage. A greater understanding of how these changes are related to the recovery process will allow the development of novel therapeutic techniques that are based on neurobiological principles and which are designed to minimize impairment in appropriately targeted patients suffering from stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / pathology
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Movement Disorders / pathology
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Stroke / physiopathology