Background and purpose: Studies of cerebral activation of motor function after ischemic stroke may enhance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of motor functional recovery, including the role of the noninfarcted hemisphere.
Methods: Eight right-handed recovering hemiparetic or hemiplegic patients were studied using functional MRI. Results were evaluated for each patient to consider individual variability in original functional organization, neuroanatomy, infarct size and extent, treatment, age, and sex. The results were also pooled as a group for comparison with a control group of eight right-handed normal subjects.
Results: In six of eight stroke patients, extended activation in ipsilateral sensorimotor cortex was observed during paretic hand movements. Bilateral activation of the primary sensorimotor cortex was recorded in three of these six patients; ipsilateral activation alone was recorded in the remaining three patients. Only two patients had mild synkinesia. Furthermore, in two male patients, the paretic hand movements activated extended areas of ipsilateral premotor and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, when compared with normal subjects. In two patients with left frontal infarction, profound activation in the right supramarginal gyrus and in the right premotor cortex was observed during the ipsilateral paretic hand movements.
Conclusions: Synkinesia alone cannot explain the extent of ipsilateral activation in primary sensorimotor cortex. The explanation offered for our findings is that preexisting uncrossed motor neural pathways may be accessed or recruited to compensate for damage to the crossed motor pathways after ischemic stroke.