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Functional Connectivity in Relation to Motor Performance and Recovery After Stroke


Plasticity after stroke has traditionally been studied by observing changes only in the spatial distribution and laterality of focal brain activation during affected limb movement. However, neural reorganization is multifaceted and our understanding may be enhanced by examining dynamics of activity within large-scale networks involved in sensorimotor control of the limbs. Here, we review functional connectivity as a promising means of assessing the consequences of a stroke lesion on the transfer of activity within large-scale neural networks. We first provide a brief overview of techniques used to assess functional connectivity in subjects with stroke. Next, we review task-related and resting-state functional connectivity studies that demonstrate a lesion-induced disruption of neural networks, the relationship of the extent of this disruption with motor performance, and the potential for network reorganization in the presence of a stroke lesion. We conclude with suggestions for future research and theories that may enhance the interpretation of changing functional connectivity. Overall findings suggest that a network level assessment provides a useful framework to examine brain reorganization and to potentially better predict behavioral outcomes following stroke.

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