Uncinate fasciculus and its cortical terminals in aphasia after subcortical stroke: A multi-modal MRI study

Neuroimage Clin. 2021;30:102597. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102597. Epub 2021 Feb 23.


Aphasia, one of the most common cognitive impairments after stroke, is commonly considered to be a cortical deficit. However, many studies have reported cases of post subcortical stroke aphasia (PSSA). The pathology and recovery mechanism of PSSA remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate PSSA mechanism through a multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach and a two-session study design (baseline and one month after treatment). Thirty-six PSSA patients and twenty-four matched healthy controls (HC) were included. All patients had subcortical infarctions involving left subcortical white matter for 1 to 6 months. The patients underwent MRI scan and Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) examination before and after one month's comprehensive treatment. Region-wise lesion-symptom mapping (RLSM), tractography, fractional anisotropy (FA), and amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (ALFF) analysis were conducted. After MRI preprocessing and exclusion, FA analysis included 35 patients pre-treatment and 16 patients post-treatment. ALFF analysis included 30 patients pre-treatment and 14 patients post-treatment. We found: 1) the amount of damage in the left uncinate fasciculus (UF) was associated with WAB aphasia quotient (AQ); 2) the left UF FA and left temporal pole (TP) ALFF were decreased and positively correlated with WAB-AQ, spontaneous speech, and naming in PSSA patients; and 3) PSSA patients showed increased left TP ALFF when their language ability recovered after treatment. The left TP ALFF change was positively correlated with AQ change. Our results demonstrate the importance of left UF and left TP (one of the cortical terminals of the left UF) in PSSA pathology and recovery. These results may further provide support for the disconnection theory in the mechanism of PSSA.

Keywords: Aphasia; Disconnection theory; Multimodal MRI; Subcortical stroke; Temporal pole; Uncinate fasciculus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aphasia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aphasia* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways
  • Stroke* / complications
  • Stroke* / diagnostic imaging
  • Uncinate Fasciculus
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging