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Brain. 2005 Jan;128(Pt 1):64-74. Epub 2004 Oct 7.

Hand coordination following capsular stroke.

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  • 1Departments of Neurology, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany.


Motor outcome following stroke of the internal capsule is variable and its determinants are poorly understood. While many patients fully regain their abilities, recovery of motor functions remains incomplete in others. We analysed functional motor tasks of the upper limb to determine the pattern of focal disability after a small infarct of the internal capsule ('pure motor stroke') in the chronic stage (mean 2.4 years after stroke) with kinematic recordings of a reaching-to-grasp movement, with a quantitative analysis of the precision grip, and with clinical rating scales. The location of the lesions within the posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) in 18 patients was determined from neuroimages obtained in the acute stage (5-20 days after the insult). Involvement of the PLIC was assessed at the level of the basal ganglia, approximately 8 mm above the anterior commissure-posterior commissure level. The distance between the posterior edge of the internal capsule and the centre of gravity of the lesion was determined. Chronic disabilities affected dextrous movements, while paresis was mild and sensitivity for light touch or passive finger flexion was almost normal. For both the reaching-to-grasp movement and the precision grip paradigm, the slowness of movement or force development was confined to the phases when grip formation and stabilization occur, while the onset of hand transport and of the vertical lifting force were not delayed. Grip forces were increased. We observed a close correlation between posterior location within the PLIC and the altered measures of timing and precision grip force. The more posterior the acute lesion was located within the PLIC, the more pronounced were the chronic motor deficits, as seen both in the quantitative measures and in the rating scales. The present study demonstrates for the first time that the amount and quality of chronic motor deficits of dextrous movements are related to a simple measure drawn from routine neuroimaging in the acute stage in patients with capsular stroke. The poor motor outcome in lesions involving the most posterior parts of the PLIC could be due to the condensed organization of corticofugal projections and the density of pyramidal fibres from the primary motor cortex in this subsector. Even small infarcts of this strategic area can disrupt many of the projections from the motor cortices and could thereby limit recovery strategies between homolateral motor representations.

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