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Visual feedback alters force control and functional activity in the visuomotor network after stroke


Modulating visual feedback may be a viable option to improve motor function after stroke, but the neurophysiological basis for this improvement is not clear. Visual gain can be manipulated by increasing or decreasing the spatial amplitude of an error signal. Here, we combined a unilateral visually guided grip force task with functional MRI to understand how changes in the gain of visual feedback alter brain activity in the chronic phase after stroke. Analyses focused on brain activation when force was produced by the most impaired hand of the stroke group as compared to the non-dominant hand of the control group. Our experiment produced three novel results. First, gain-related improvements in force control were associated with an increase in activity in many regions within the visuomotor network in both the stroke and control groups. These regions include the extrastriate visual cortex, inferior parietal lobule, ventral premotor cortex, cerebellum, and supplementary motor area. Second, the stroke group showed gain-related increases in activity in additional regions of lobules VI and VIIb of the ipsilateral cerebellum. Third, relative to the control group, the stroke group showed increased activity in the ipsilateral primary motor cortex, and activity in this region did not vary as a function of visual feedback gain. The visuomotor network, cerebellum, and ipsilateral primary motor cortex have each been targeted in rehabilitation interventions after stroke. Our observations provide new insight into the role these regions play in processing visual gain during a precisely controlled visuomotor task in the chronic phase after stroke.

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