Corticospinal tract integrity correlates with knee extensor weakness in chronic stroke survivors

Clin Neurophysiol. 2011 Aug;122(8):1588-94. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.01.011. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


Objective: Muscle weakness develops rapidly after stroke, adversely affecting motor performance, and contributing to reduced functional ability. While the contributions of structural and functional alterations in skeletal muscle to post-stroke weakness have been well described, the relationship between motor pathway integrity, measured using both radiological and electrophysiological techniques, and post-stroke muscle weakness is not clear. This study sought to determine the role of corticospinal tract (CST) integrity on knee extensor weakness in chronic stroke survivors.

Methods: Knee extensor strength and activation testing were performed at 90° of knee flexion using an interpolated triplet technique. CST integrity was evaluated using data obtained from Diffusion Tensor Imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Results: Recordings in nine stroke subjects indicated substantial knee extensor weakness and activation deficits in the paretic legs of the stroke survivors. Regression analysis revealed that asymmetry in CST integrity was strongly related to between-leg differences in knee strength.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest a strong link between CST integrity and lower extremity strength, and add to the growing evidence of substantial knee extensor weakness and activation impairments in stroke survivors.

Significance: The findings from this study further our understanding of the anatomical and neurophysiological contributions to motor impairments after stroke, which may benefit clinicians and researchers in the field of stroke rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Mapping
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / innervation
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiopathology*
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiology*
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Survivors*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods