No changes in functional connectivity during motor recovery beyond 5 weeks post-stroke. A resting-state fMRI study.

Spontaneous motor recovery after stroke appears to be associated with structural and functional changes in the motor network. The aim of the current study was to explore time-dependent changes in resting-state (rs) functional connectivity in motor-impaired stroke patients, using rs-functional MRI at 5 weeks and 26 weeks post-stroke onset. For this aim, 13 stroke patients from the EXPLICIT-stroke Trial and age and gender-matched healthy control subjects were included. Patients’ synergistic motor control of the paretic upper-limb was assessed with the upper extremity section of the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA-UE) within 2 weeks, and at 5 and 26 weeks post-stroke onset. Results showed that the ipsilesional rs-functional connectivity between motor areas was lower compared to the contralesional rs-functional connectivity, but this difference did not change significantly over time. No relations were observed between changes in rs-functional connectivity and upper-limb motor recovery, despite changes in upper-limb function as measured with the FMA-UE. Last, overall rs-functional connectivity was comparable for patients and healthy control subjects.

To conclude, the current findings did not provide evidence that in moderately impaired stroke patients the lower rs-functional connectivity of the ipsilesional hemisphere changed over time.