Background: Chronic hemiplegia is a common long-term consequence of stroke, and subsequent motor recovery is often incomplete. Neurophysiological studies have focused on motor execution deficits in relatively high functioning patients. Much less is known about the influence exerted by processes related to motor preparation, particularly in patients with poor motor recovery.
Methodology/principal findings: The current study investigates motor preparation using a modified response-priming experiment in a large sample of patients (n = 50) with moderate-to-severe chronic hemiparesis. The behavioural results revealed that hemiparetic patients had an increased response-priming effect compared to controls, but that their response times were markedly slower for both hands. Patients also demonstrated significantly enhanced midline late contingent negative variation (CNV) during paretic hand preparation, despite the absence of overall group differences when compared to controls. Furthermore, increased amplitude of the midline CNV correlated with a greater response-priming effect. We propose that these changes might reflect greater anticipated effort to respond in patients, and consequently that advance cueing of motor responses may be of benefit in these individuals. We further observed significantly reduced CNV amplitudes over the lesioned hemisphere in hemiparetic patients compared to controls during non-paretic hand preparation, preparation of both hands and no hand preparation. Two potential explanations for these CNV reductions are discussed: alterations in anticipatory attention or state changes in motor processing, for example an imbalance in inter-hemispheric inhibition.
Conclusions/significance: Overall, this study provides evidence that movement preparation could play a crucial role in hemiparetic motor deficits, and that advance motor cueing may be of benefit in future therapeutic interventions. In addition, it demonstrates the importance of monitoring both the non-paretic and paretic hand after stroke and during therapeutic intervention.