Upper extremity motor impairments and microstructural changes in bulbospinal pathways in chronic hemiparetic stroke

Meriel Owen, Carson Ingo, Julius P.A. Dewald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Following hemiparetic stroke, precise, individuated control of single joints is often replaced by highly stereotyped patterns of multi-joint movement, or abnormal limb synergies, which can negatively impact functional use of the paretic arm. One hypothesis for the expression of these synergies is an increased dependence on bulbospinal pathways such as the rubrospinal (RubST) tract and especially the reticulospinal (RetST) tracts, which co-activate multiple muscles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers. Despite indirect evidence supporting this hypothesis in humans poststroke, it still remains unclear whether it is correct. Therefore, we used high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to quantify white matter microstructure in relation to severity of arm synergy and hand-related motor impairments. DTI was performed on 19 moderately to severely impaired chronic stroke individuals and 15 healthy, age-matched controls. In stroke individuals, compared to controls, there was significantly decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) and significantly increased axial and radial diffusivity in bilateral corona radiata and body of the corpus callosum. Furthermore, poststroke, the contralesional (CL) RetST FA correlated significantly with both upper extremity (UE) synergy severity (r = -0.606, p = 0.003) and hand impairment (r = -0.609, p = 0.003). FA in the ipsilesional RubST significantly correlated with hand impairment severity (r = -0.590, p = 0.004). For the first time, we separately evaluate RetST and RubST microstructure in chronic stroke individuals with UE motor impairment. We demonstrate that individuals with the greatest UE synergy severity and hand impairments poststroke have the highest FA in the CL RetST a pattern consistent with increased myelination and suggestive of neuroplastic reorganization. Since the RetST pathway microstructure, in particular, is sensitive to abnormal joint coupling and hand-related motor impairment in chronic stroke, it could help test the effects of specific, and novel, anti-synergy neurorehabilitation interventions for recovery from hemiparesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number257
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume8
Issue numberJUN
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 13 2017

Keywords

  • Brainstem
  • Chronic stroke
  • Diffusion imaging
  • Motor impairment
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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