Reorganization of cerebral networks after stroke: new insights from neuroimaging with connectivity approaches

Brain. 2011 May;134(Pt 5):1264-76. doi: 10.1093/brain/awr033. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


The motor system comprises a network of cortical and subcortical areas interacting via excitatory and inhibitory circuits, thereby governing motor behaviour. The balance within the motor network may be critically disturbed after stroke when the lesion either directly affects any of these areas or damages-related white matter tracts. A growing body of evidence suggests that abnormal interactions among cortical regions remote from the ischaemic lesion might also contribute to the motor impairment after stroke. Here, we review recent studies employing models of functional and effective connectivity on neuroimaging data to investigate how stroke influences the interaction between motor areas and how changes in connectivity relate to impaired motor behaviour and functional recovery. Based on such data, we suggest that pathological intra- and inter-hemispheric interactions among key motor regions constitute an important pathophysiological aspect of motor impairment after subcortical stroke. We also demonstrate that therapeutic interventions, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which aims to interfere with abnormal cortical activity, may correct pathological connectivity not only at the stimulation site but also among distant brain regions. In summary, analyses of connectivity further our understanding of the pathophysiology underlying motor symptoms after stroke, and may thus help to design hypothesis-driven treatment strategies to promote recovery of motor function in patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / pathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Stroke / pathology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology*