Lesion mapping in acute stroke aphasia and its implications for recovery

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Abstract

Patients with stroke offer a unique window into understanding human brain function. Mapping stroke lesions poses several challenges due to the complexity of the lesion anatomy and the mechanisms causing local and remote disruption on brain networks. In this prospective longitudinal study, we compare standard and advanced approaches to white matter lesion mapping applied to acute stroke patients with aphasia. Eighteen patients with acute left hemisphere stroke were recruited and scanned within two weeks from symptom onset. Aphasia assessment was performed at baseline and six-month follow-up. Structural and diffusion MRI contrasts indicated an area of maximum overlap in the anterior external/extreme capsule with diffusion images showing a larger overlap extending into posterior perisylvian regions. Anatomical predictors of recovery included damage to ipsilesional tracts (as shown by both structural and diffusion images) and contralesional tracts (as shown by diffusion images only). These findings indicate converging results from structural and diffusion lesion mapping methods but also clear differences between the two approaches in their ability to identify predictors of recovery outside the lesioned regions.

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