BACKGROUND: The outcome of stroke survivors is difficult to anticipate. While the extent of the anatomical brain lesion is only poorly correlated with the prognosis, functional measures of cortical synchrony, brain networks and cortical plasticity seem to be good predictors of clinical recovery. In this field, gamma (>30 Hz) cortical synchrony is an ideal marker of brain function, as it plays a crucial role for the integration of information, it is an indirect marker of Glutamate/GABA balance and it directly estimates the reserve of parvalbulin-positive neurons, key players in synaptic plasticity. In this study we measured gamma synchronization driven by external auditory stimulation with magnetoencephalography and tested whether it was predictive of the clinical outcome in stroke survivors undergoing intensive rehabilitation in a tertiary rehabilitation center.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Eleven stroke survivors undergoing intensive rehabilitation were prospectively recruited. Gamma synchrony was measured non-invasively within one month from stroke onset with magnetoencephalography, both at rest and during entrainment with external 40 Hz amplitude modulated binaural sounds. Lesion location and volume were quantitatively assessed through a high-resolution anatomical MRI. Barthel index (BI) and Functional Independence Measure (FIM) scales were measured at the beginning and at the end of the admission to the rehabilitation unit.
RESULTS: The spatial distribution of cortical gamma synchrony was altered, and the physiological right hemispheric dominance observed in healthy controls was attenuated or lost. Entrained gamma synchronization (but not resting state gamma synchrony) showed a very high correlation with the clinical status at both admission and discharge (both BI and FIM). Neither clinical status nor gamma synchrony showed a correlation with lesion volume.
CONCLUSIONS: Cortical gamma synchrony related to auditory entrainment can be reliably measured in stroke patients. Gamma synchrony is strongly associated with the clinical outcome of stroke survivors undergoing rehabilitation.