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An exploratory intervention study suggests clinical benefits of training in chronic stroke to be paralleled by changes in brain activity using repeated fMRI

Authors Landsmann B, Pinter D, Pirker E, Pichler G, Schippinger W, Weiss E, Mathie G, Gattringer T, Fazekas F, Enzinger C

Received 2 September 2015

Accepted for publication 3 November 2015

Published 28 January 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 97—103


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Barbara Landsmann,1,2 Daniela Pinter,2 Eva Pirker,1,2 Gerald Pichler,3 Walter Schippinger,3 Elisabeth M Weiss,1 Gabriel Mathie,2 Thomas Gattringer,2 Franz Fazekas,2 Christian Enzinger2,4

1Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria; 2Department of Neurology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria; 3Albert Schweitzer Clinic Graz, Graz, Austria; 4Division of Neuroradiology, Department of Radiology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

Purpose: Previous studies demonstrated changes in sensorimotor network activation over time after stroke that have been interpreted as partly compensatory. Locomotor and balance trainings may improve both mobility and cognition even in chronic stroke and thereby impact on cerebral activation patterns. We here aimed at testing these assumptions in an exploratory study to inform subsequent larger intervention studies.
Patients and methods: Eight patients (73.3±4.4 years) with a chronic lacunar stroke (mean interval 3.7 years after the acute event with a range from 2 to 4 years) and residual leg paresis leading to gait disturbance received a guided 5-week training focusing on mobility, endurance, and coordination. Before and afterward, they underwent clinical, neuropsychological, and gait assessments and brain MRI at 3 T including a functional ankle movement paradigm. Sixteen healthy controls (HCs; 68.8±5.4 years) followed the same protocol without intervention.
Results: After training, patients had improved in mobility, memory, and delayed recall of memory. While cerebral activations in HC remained completely unaltered, patients showed increased activations in the right precentral gyrus, the right and left superior frontal gyri, and the right frontal lobe, with bipedal ankle movements after training.
In this exploratory study of chronic stroke, we found not only significant effects of physical training on mobility but also distinct aspects of cognition already with a small number of highly selected patients. These improvements were paralleled by alterations in cerebral activity possibly reflecting neuronal plasticity. Larger studies including randomization are needed.

Keywords: mobility, cognition, lacunar stroke, training, rehabilitation, neuronal plasticity

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