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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


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Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Language Following Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy Primed with Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation in 13 Patients with Post-Stroke Aphasia

Jane B. Allendorfer, Rodolphe Nenert, Sangeeta Nair, Jennifer Vannest, Jerzy P. Szaflarski

(Department of Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA)

Med Sci Monit 2021; 27:e930100

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.930100

BACKGROUND: Aphasia is a debilitating consequence of stroke. This study aimed to investigate the role of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activation changes during overt language tasks in promoting language improvements following constraint-induced aphasia therapy (CIAT) primed with intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) in 13 patients with aphasia following ischemic stroke.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Participants with post-stroke aphasia participated in CIAT primed with iTBS on 10 consecutive weekdays. They also underwent language testing and fMRI while performing overt language tasks at baseline (N=13), immediately post-treatment (N=13), and after 3 months (N=12). Outcome measures were compared between time points, and relationships between changes in language ability and fMRI activation were examined.
RESULTS: We observed improvements in naming (p<0.001), aphasia symptoms (p=0.038), apraxia of speech symptoms (p=0.040), perception of everyday communicative ability (p=0.001), and the number of spoken words produced during fMRI (p=0.028). Pre- to post-treatment change in naming was negatively correlated with change in right postcentral gyrus activation related to noun-verb associations (rho=-0.554, p=0.0497). Change in aphasia symptoms from immediately after to 3 months post-treatment was negatively correlated with change in bilateral supplementary motor area activation related to verbal encoding (rho=-0.790, p=0.0022).
CONCLUSIONS: Aphasia improvements coupled with fMRI activation changes over time provide support for treatment-induced neuroplasticity with CIAT primed with iTBS. However, a larger randomized sham-controlled study is warranted to confirm our findings and further our understanding of how iTBS can potentiate beneficial effects of language therapy in post-stroke aphasia.

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