Background There is growing interest to establish recovery biomarkers, especially neurological biomarkers, in order to develop new therapies and prediction models for the promotion of stroke rehabilitation and recovery. However, there is no consensus among the neurorehabilitation community about which biomarker(s) have the highest predictive value for motor recovery. Objective To review the evidence and determine which neurological biomarker(s) meet the high evidence quality criteria for use in predicting motor recovery. Methods We searched databases for prognostic neuroimaging/neurophysiological studies. Methodological quality of each study was assessed using a previously employed comprehensive 15-item rating system. Furthermore, we used the GRADE approach and ranked the overall evidence quality for each category of neurologic biomarker. Results Seventy-one articles met our inclusion criteria; 5 categories of neurologic biomarkers were identified: diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), conventional structural MRI (sMRI), and a combination of these biomarkers. Most studies were conducted with individuals after ischemic stroke in the acute and/or subacute stage (~70%). Less than one-third of the studies (21/71) were assessed with satisfactory methodological quality (80% or more of total quality score). Conventional structural MRI and the combination biomarker categories ranked "high" in overall evidence quality. Conclusions There were 3 prevalent methodological limitations: (a) lack of cross-validation, (b) lack of minimal clinically important difference (MCID) for motor outcomes, and (c) small sample size. More high-quality studies are needed to establish which neurological biomarkers are the best predictors of motor recovery after stroke. Finally, the quarter-century old methodological quality tool used here should be updated by inclusion of more contemporary methods and statistical approaches.
Keywords: diffusion tensor imaging; magnetic resonance imaging; motor recovery; neurological biomarkers; prognosis; stroke; transcranial magnetic stimulation.
© The Author(s) 2016.