Multivariate Connectome-Based Symptom Mapping in Post-Stroke Patients: Networks Supporting Language and Speech

J Neurosci. 2016 Jun 22;36(25):6668-79. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4396-15.2016.


Language processing relies on a widespread network of brain regions. Univariate post-stroke lesion-behavior mapping is a particularly potent method to study brain-language relationships. However, it is a concern that this method may overlook structural disconnections to seemingly spared regions and may fail to adjudicate between regions that subserve different processes but share the same vascular perfusion bed. For these reasons, more refined structural brain mapping techniques may improve the accuracy of detecting brain networks supporting language. In this study, we applied a predictive multivariate framework to investigate the relationship between language deficits in human participants with chronic aphasia and the topological distribution of structural brain damage, defined as post-stroke necrosis or cortical disconnection. We analyzed lesion maps as well as structural connectome measures of whole-brain neural network integrity to predict clinically applicable language scores from the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB). Out-of-sample prediction accuracy was comparable for both types of analyses, which revealed spatially distinct, albeit overlapping, networks of cortical regions implicated in specific aspects of speech functioning. Importantly, all WAB scores could be predicted at better-than-chance level from the connections between gray-matter regions spared by the lesion. Connectome-based analysis highlighted the role of connectivity of the temporoparietal junction as a multimodal area crucial for language tasks. Our results support that connectome-based approaches are an important complement to necrotic lesion-based approaches and should be used in combination with lesion mapping to fully elucidate whether structurally damaged or structurally disconnected regions relate to aphasic impairment and its recovery.

Significance statement: We present a novel multivariate approach of predicting post-stroke impairment of speech and language from the integrity of the connectome. We compare it with multivariate prediction of speech and language scores from lesion maps, using cross-validation framework and a large (n = 90) database of behavioral and neuroimaging data from individuals with post-stroke aphasia. Connectome-based analysis was similar to lesion-based analysis in terms of predictive accuracy and provided additional details about the importance of specific connections (in particular, between parietal and posterior temporal areas) for preserving speech functions. Our results suggest that multivariate predictive analysis of the connectome is a useful complement to multivariate lesion analysis, being less dependent on the spatial constraints imposed by underlying vasculature.

Keywords: aphasia; brain lesions; connectome; multivariate analysis; stroke; support vector regression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Connectome*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Language Disorders / etiology*
  • Language Tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Stroke / complications*