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.