Cerebellar hemispheric activation ipsilateral to the paretic hand correlates with functional recovery after stroke

Steven L. Small, P. Hlustik, D. C. Noll, C. Genovese, A. Solodkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


An experimental lesion in the primary motor or sensory cortices in monkeys leads to functional reorganization in areas surrounding the lesion or in contralateral homologous regions. In humans, task-dependent brain activation after motor stroke seems to be multifocal and bilateral. Although many active structures are seen after stroke, their roles are unclear. For instance, the uninjured primary motor cortex may play a significant role in recovery or may be associated with mirror movements. Other motor areas, particularly those outside the affected middle cerebral artery distribution, have also been thought to play such a role, including the medial pre-motor areas and both cerebellar hemispheres. The lateral pre-motor areas might also contribute but the demarcation of primary motor and premotor cortices is not trivial. It is not known from existing studies how brain activation relates to behavioural change over the time course of recovery. We used functional MRI (fMRI) to study 12 patients longitudinally over the first 6 months of stroke recovery. All subjects had acute stroke causing unilateral arm weakness and had some ability to move the impaired hand within 1 month. Each patient had both motor testing and fMRI during finger and wrist movements at four points during the observed period. Six of these patients showed good motor recovery, whereas the other six did not. The imaging results support a role for the cerebellum in mediating functional recovery from stroke. The data suggest that patients with good recovery have clear changes in the activation of the cerebellar hemisphere opposite the injured corticospinal tract. Patients with poor recovery do not show such changes in cerebellar activation. No other brain region had a significant correlation with recovery. Interestingly, activation in the cerebellum ipsilateral to the injury increases transiently after stroke, independently of the success of recovery. The present work suggests a possible link between cerebellar activation and behavioural recovery from hand weakness from stroke. The underlying mechanism is not known, but it could relate to haemodynamic changes such as diaschisis or to the postulated role of the cerebellum in motor skill learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1544-1557
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Functional brain imaging
  • Plasticity
  • Stroke recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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