Aberrant Cortical Functionality and Somatosensory Deficits After Stroke

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Damage and/or disconnection of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) after stroke leads to deficits in touch perception. We used magnetoencephalography to test whether specific patterns of functionality of the somatosensory cortex are associated with different degrees of postacute somatosensory deficit. Nineteen postacute unilateral stroke patients suffering different degrees of somatosensory deficit (six inexistent, six moderate, and seven severe) and eight aged-matched controls underwent high-resolution MRI and whole-head magnetoencephalography recordings of somatosensory-evoked fields and of spontaneous slow oscillatory activity. Amplitude of SI activation after tactile stimulation in the affected and nonaffected hemispheres and delta dipole density (DDD) in the postcentral areas were estimated and compared across the four groups. Severe postacute somatosensory deficit was accompanied, in all cases, with absence of SI responses to stimulation in the affected hand and a significant asymmetry in postcentral DDD toward the affected hemisphere. Patients with moderate sensory loss showed asymmetry in their postcentral DDD (four cases toward the affected hemisphere and two toward the unaffected) but no atypical amplitudes in SI activation. Recordings in stroke patients without somatosensory deficit did not differ from those obtained in controls for SI amplitude or postcentral DDD. In stroke patients, amplitude of SI responses and postcentral DDD show a negative correlation. Lack of activation of SI cortex after stimulation of the affected hand and spontaneous slow oscillatory activity in postcentral areas are neurophysiological correlates of somatosensory deficit in the postacute phase of stroke.

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