Object. A systematic investigation on cortical reorganization in patients with hemiparesis of a subcortical origin, with special emphasis on functional correlates, was conducted using functional magnetic resonance (fMR) imaging performed on a 3-tesla system specifically optimized for fMR imaging investigation.
Methods. The study group included 46 patients with hemiparesis (25 with right and 21 with left hemiparesis) and 30 age-matched healthy volunteers as controls. All study participants were originally right handed. The characteristics of the lesion were putaminal hemorrhage in 19 patients, thalamic hemorrhage in 10 patients, and striatocapsular bland infarction in 17 patients.
Functional recovery in subcortical hemiparesis showed two distinct phases of the recovery process involving entirely different neural mechanisms. Phase I is characterized by the process of recovery and/or reorganization of the primary system. Successful recovery of this system is typically reached within 1 month after stroke onset. Its clinical correlate is a rapid recovery course and significant recovery of function within 1 month of stroke onset. Failure of recovery of the primary system shifts the recovery process to Phase II, during which reorganization involving the ipsilateral pathway takes place. The clinical correlate of Phase II is a slow recovery course with variable functional outcome.
Conclusions. Effective functional organization of the ipsilateral pathway, as identified by linked activation of the ipsilateral primary sensorimotor cortex and contralateral anterior lobe of the cerebellum, is correlated with a good prognostic outcome for patients in the slow recovery group. A high degree of connectivity between supplementary motor areas, bilaterally, appears to influence functional recovery adversely.