Researchers image language recovery after stroke

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have imaged language areas of the brain during recovery from stroke. This glimpse into the brain's natural rehabilitation pattern could lead to a better understanding of normal language processes and help optimize stroke therapy. The study is reported in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Neurology.

Each year, 750,000 Americans suffer a temporary loss of blood flow to the brain, known as an ischemic stroke. Often, patients experience problems with speech and language, particularly after a stroke to the left side of the brain. Remarkably, many recover the majority of their language abilities within six to twelve months.

Although physical, occupational and speech therapies play key roles in recovery, scientists do not yet understand how the brain recovers and how different therapies influence rehabilitation. "We use many forms of therapy, but most of them are based on good common sense rather than on real, scientific evidence," explains Maurizio Corbetta, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, of radiology and of anatomy and neurobiology and the leader of this study.

When stroke patients regain some of their language abilities, their behavioral improvements may result from either of two mechanisms. The damaged area might recover its original functions or a different part of the brain might take over and compensate for the impaired region. Corbetta and colleagues set out to distinguish between these two possibilities. "We were interested in imaging areas potentially involved in language recovery to examine the underlying mechanisms," Corbetta says. "We also would like to find markers to distinguish between successful and unsuccessful recovery."

Recent advances in imaging techniques provide researchers with a window into the brain. To date, imaging studies of language recovery after stroke have examined patients on the basis of clinical symptoms. Scientists meas

Contact: Gila Reckess
Washington University School of Medicine

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