Congratulations Dr.Janis Daly on the publication of “Greater Cortical Thickness Is Associated With Enhanced Sensory Function After Arm Rehabilitation in Chronic Stroke,” in the June issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.
Objective. Somatosensory function is critical to normal motor control. After stroke, dysfunction of the sensory systems prevents normal motor function and degrades quality of life. Structural neuroplasticity underpinnings of sensory recovery after stroke are not fully understood. The objective of this study was to identify changes in bilateral cortical thickness (CT) that may drive recovery of sensory acuity. Methods. Chronic stroke survivors (n = 20) were treated with 12 weeks of rehabilitation. Measures were sensory acuity (monofilament), Fugl-Meyer upper limb and CT change. Permutation-based general linear regression modeling identified cortical regions in which change in CT was associated with change in sensory acuity. Results. For the ipsilesional hemisphere in response to treatment, CT increase was significantly associated with sensory improvement in the area encompassing the occipital pole, lateral occipital cortex (inferior and superior divisions), intracalcarine cortex, cuneal cortex, precuneus cortex, inferior temporal gyrus, occipital fusiform gyrus, supracalcarine cortex, and temporal occipital fusiform cortex. For the contralesional hemisphere, increased CT was associated with improved sensory acuity within the posterior parietal cortex that included supramarginal and angular gyri. Following upper limb therapy, monofilament test score changed from 45.0 ± 13.3 to 42.6 ± 12.9 mm (P = .063) and Fugl-Meyer score changed from 22.1 ± 7.8 to 32.3 ± 10.1 (P < .001). Conclusions. Rehabilitation in the chronic stage after stroke produced structural brain changes that were strongly associated with enhanced sensory acuity. Improved sensory perception was associated with increased CT in bilateral high-order association sensory cortices reflecting the complex nature of sensory function and recovery in response to rehabilitation.