Prediction of Long-term Cognitive Functions after Minor Stroke, Using Functional Connectivity

Neurology. 2021 Jan 5;10.1212/WNL.0000000000011452. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000011452. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To determine whether functional MRI connectivity can predict the long-term cognitive functions 36 months after minor stroke.

Methods: Seventy-two participants with first-ever stroke were included at baseline and followed up for 36 months. A ridge regression machine learning algorithm was developed and used to predict cognitive scores 36 months post-stroke on the basis of the functional networks measured using MRI at 6 months (referred to here as the post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI) network). The prediction accuracy was evaluated in four domains (memory, attention/executive, language and visuospatial functions) and compared with clinical data and other functional networks. The models' statistical significance was probed with permutation tests. The potential involvement of cortical atrophy was assessed 6 months post-stroke. A second, independent dataset (n=40) was used to validate the results and assess their generalizability.

Results: Based on the PSCI network, a machine learning model was able to predict memory, attention, visuospatial functions and language functions 36 months post-stroke (r2: 0.67, 0.73, 0.55 and 0.48, respectively). The PSCI-based model was at least as accurate as models based on other functional networks or clinical data. Specific patterns were demonstrated for the four cognitive domains, with involvement of the left superior frontal cortex for memory, attention and visuospatial functions. The cortical thickness 6 months post-stroke was not correlated with cognitive function 36 months post-stroke. The independent validation dataset gave similar results.

Conclusions: A machine learning model based on the PSCI network can predict the long-term cognitive outcome after stroke.