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Stroke. 2010 Oct;41(10):2191-200. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.583641. Epub 2010 Sep 2.

Recovery of upper limb function after cerebellar stroke: lesion symptom mapping and arm kinematics.

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  • 1Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Mn 55455, USA.



Loss of movement coordination is the main postacute symptom after cerebellar infarction. Although the course of motor recovery has been described previously, detailed kinematic descriptions of acute stage ataxia are rare and no attempt has been made to link improvements in motor function to measures of neural recovery and lesion location. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of how lesion site and arm dysfunction are associated in the acute stage and outlines the course of upper limb motor recovery for the first 4 months after the infarction.


Sixteen adult patients with cerebellar stroke and 11 age-matched healthy controls participated. Kinematics of goal-directed and unconstrained finger-pointing movements were measured at the acute stage and in 2-week and 3-month follow-ups. MRI data were obtained for the acute and 3-month follow-up sessions. A voxel-based lesion map subtraction analysis was performed to examine the effect of ischemic lesion sites on kinematic performance.


In the acute stage, nearly 70% of patients exhibited motor slowing with hand velocity and acceleration maxima below the range of the control group. MRI analysis revealed that in patients with impaired motor performance, lesions were more common in paravermal lobules IV/V and affected the deep cerebellar nuclei. Stroke affecting the superior cerebellar artery led to lower motor performance than infractions of the posterior cerebellar artery. By the 2-week-follow-up, hand kinematics had improved dramatically (gains in acceleration up to 86%). Improvements between the 2-week and the 3-month-follow-ups were less pronounced.


In the acute stage, arm movements were mainly characterized by abnormal slowness (bradykinesia) and not dyscoordination (ataxia). The motor signs were associated with lesions in paravermal regions of lobules IV/V and the deep cerebellar nuclei. Motor recovery was fast, with the majority of gains in upper limb function occurring in the first 2 weeks after the acute phase.

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