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Right hemisphere grey matter structure and language outcomes in chronic left hemisphere stroke

Shihui Xing, Elizabeth H. Lacey, Laura M. Skipper-Kallal, Xiong Jiang, Michelle L. Harris-Love, Jinsheng Zeng, Peter E. Turkeltaub
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awv323 awv323 First published online: 31 October 2015

Summary

The neural mechanisms underlying recovery of language after left hemisphere stroke remain elusive. Although older evidence suggested that right hemisphere language homologues compensate for damage in left hemisphere language areas, the current prevailing theory suggests that right hemisphere engagement is ineffective or even maladaptive. Using a novel combination of support vector regression-based lesion-symptom mapping and voxel-based morphometry, we aimed to determine whether local grey matter volume in the right hemisphere independently contributes to aphasia outcomes after chronic left hemisphere stroke. Thirty-two left hemisphere stroke survivors with aphasia underwent language assessment with the Western Aphasia Battery-Revised and tests of other cognitive domains. High-resolution T1-weighted images were obtained in aphasia patients and 30 demographically matched healthy controls. Support vector regression-based multivariate lesion-symptom mapping was used to identify critical language areas in the left hemisphere and then to quantify each stroke survivor’s lesion burden in these areas. After controlling for these direct effects of the stroke on language, voxel-based morphometry was then used to determine whether local grey matter volumes in the right hemisphere explained additional variance in language outcomes. In brain areas in which grey matter volumes related to language outcomes, we then compared grey matter volumes in patients and healthy controls to assess post-stroke plasticity. Lesion–symptom mapping showed that specific left hemisphere regions related to different language abilities. After controlling for lesion burden in these areas, lesion size, and demographic factors, grey matter volumes in parts of the right temporoparietal cortex positively related to spontaneous speech, naming, and repetition scores. Examining whether domain general cognitive functions might explain these relationships, partial correlations demonstrated that grey matter volumes in these clusters related to verbal working memory capacity, but not other cognitive functions. Further, grey matter volumes in these areas were greater in stroke survivors than healthy control subjects. To confirm this result, 10 chronic left hemisphere stroke survivors with no history of aphasia were identified. Grey matter volumes in right temporoparietal clusters were greater in stroke survivors with aphasia compared to those without history of aphasia. These findings suggest that the grey matter structure of right hemisphere posterior dorsal stream language homologues independently contributes to language production abilities in chronic left hemisphere stroke, and that these areas may undergo hypertrophy after a stroke causing aphasia.

  • aphasia
  • stroke
  • grey matter
  • outcome
  • right hemisphere
  • voxel-based morphometry
  • Abbreviations
    AQ
    aphasia quotient
    PCAD
    proportion of critical area damaged
    SVR-LSM
    support vector regression-based lesion–symptom mapping
    VBM
    voxel-based morphometry
    WAB-R
    Western Aphasia Battery-Revised
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