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Neuroimaging Correlates of Post-Stroke Aphasia Rehabilitation in a Pilot Randomized Trial of Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy

Rodolphe Nenert, Jane B. Allendorfer, Amber M. Martin, Christi Banks, Angel Ball, Jennifer Vannest, Aimee R. Dietz, Jerzy P. Szaflarski

(Department of Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA)

Med Sci Monit 2017; 23:3489-3507

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.902301

BACKGROUND: Recovery from post-stroke aphasia is a long and complex process with an uncertain outcome. Various interventions have been proposed to augment the recovery, including constraint-induced aphasia therapy (CIAT). CIAT has been applied to patients suffering from post-stroke aphasia in several unblinded studies to show mild-to-moderate linguistic gains. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the neuroimaging correlates of CIAT in patients with chronic aphasia related to left middle cerebral artery stroke.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Out of 24 patients recruited in a pilot randomized blinded trial of CIAT, 19 patients received fMRI of language. Eleven of them received CIAT (trained) and eight served as a control group (untrained). Each patient participated in three fMRI sessions (before training, after training, and 3 months later) that included semantic decision and verb generation fMRI tasks, and a battery of language tests. Matching healthy control participants were also included (N=38; matching based on age, handedness, and sex).
RESULTS: Language testing showed significantly improved performance on Boston Naming Test (BNT; p<0.001) in both stroke groups over time and fMRI showed differences in the distribution of the areas involved in language production between groups that were not present at baseline. Further, regression analysis with BNT indicated changes in brain regions correlated with behavioral performance (temporal gyrus, postcentral gyrus, precentral gyrus, thalamus, left middle and superior frontal gyri).
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our results suggest the possibility of language-related cortical plasticity following stroke-induced aphasia with no specific effect from CIAT training.

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