Primary objective: To understand the temporal evolution of brain reorganization during recovery from stroke.
Research design: A patient who suffered left middle cerebral artery stroke 9 months earlier was studied on three occasions, approximately 1 month apart.
Methods and procedures: Brain activation was studied using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). During each session, the patient performed a finger-to-thumb opposition task, which involved one bimanual and two unimanual conditions. Each condition consisted of overt movement of fingers and imagery of the same task.
Results: With recovery, greater recruitment was observed of the affected primary motor cortex (M1) and a decrease in activation of the unaffected M1 and supplementary motor area. In addition, the widespread activation of brain areas seen during the initial session changed to a more focused pattern of activation as the patient recovered. Imagery tasks resulted in similar brain activity as overt execution pointing to imagery as a potential tool for rehabilitation.