Objectives: If neuroplastic changes in aphasia are consistent across studies, this would imply relatively stereotyped mechanisms of recovery which could guide the design of more efficient noninvasive brain stimulation treatments. To address this question, we performed a meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies of chronic aphasia after stroke.
Methods: Functional neuroimaging articles using language tasks in patients with chronic aphasia after stroke (n = 105) and control subjects (n = 129) were collected. Activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis determined areas of consistent activity in each group. Functional homology between areas recruited by aphasic patients and controls was assessed by determining whether they activated under the same experimental conditions.
Results: Controls consistently activated a network of left hemisphere language areas. Aphasic patients consistently activated some spared left hemisphere language nodes, new left hemisphere areas, and right hemisphere areas homotopic to the control subjects' language network. Patients with left inferior frontal lesions recruited right inferior frontal gyrus more reliably than those without. Some areas, including right dorsal pars opercularis, were functionally homologous with corresponding control areas, while others, including right pars triangularis, were not.
Conclusions: The network of brain areas aphasic patients recruit for language functions is largely consistent across studies. Several recruitment mechanisms occur, including persistent function in spared nodes, compensatory recruitment of alternate nodes, and recruitment of areas that may hinder recovery. These findings may guide development of brain stimulation protocols that can be applied across populations of aphasic patients who share common attributes.