Background: The majority of studies investigating the neural mechanisms underlying treatment-induced recovery in aphasia have focused on the cortical regions associated with language processing. However, the integrity of the white matter connecting these regions may also be crucial to understanding treatment mechanisms.
Objective: This study investigated the integrity of the arcuate fasciculus (AF) and uncinate fasciculus (UF) before and after treatment for anomia in people with aphasia.
Method: Eight people with aphasia received 12 treatment sessions to improve naming; alternating between phonologically-based and semantic-based tasks, with high angular resolution diffusion imaging conducted pre and post treatment. The mean generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA), a measure of fiber integrity, and number of fibers in the AF and UF were compared pre and post treatment, as well as with a group of 14 healthy older controls.
Results: Pre treatment, participants with aphasia had significantly fewer fibers and lower mean GFA in the left AF compared with controls. Post treatment, mean GFA increased in the left AF to be statistically equivalent to controls. Additionally, mean GFA in the left AF pre and post treatment positively correlated with maintenance of the phonologically based treatment. No differences were found in the right AF, or the UF in either hemisphere, between participants with aphasia and controls, and no changes were observed in these tracts following treatment.
Conclusions: Anomia treatments may improve the integrity of the white matter connecting cortical language regions. These preliminary results add to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying treatment outcomes in people with aphasia post stroke.
Keywords: aphasia; arcuate fasciculus; diffusion imaging; rehabilitation; uncinate fasciculus.