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Neuroreport. 2004 Feb 9;15(2):357-61.

Lateralization in autonomic dysfunction in ischemic stroke involving the insular cortex.

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Department of Neurology and Pediatrics, University of the Saarland, Germany.


Autonomic nervous system dysfunction is a common complication of ischemic stroke. Clinical and experimental data indicate hemispheric lateralization in the control of autonomic activity. The insular cortex has also been shown to play a crucial role in the central autonomic network. The aim of this study was to assess cardio-autonomic dysfunction in patients with ischemic insular versus non-insular cortex infarction, and to demonstrate a possible lateralization in autonomic activity mediated by the insular cortex. Sympathetic function was prospectively assessed by determining plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine in 15 patients with left-hemisphere (LH; four insular infarction), and 14 with right-hemisphere (RH) middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke (five insular infarction). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate were recorded during the first 5 days after stroke. Sympathetic activity was significantly higher in insular than in non-insular infarction (p < 0.05) with concomitantly elevated cardiovascular parameters in insular stroke patients. The pathological activation of the sympathetic nervous system was most excessive in RH-stroke involving the insular cortex (p < 0.05). Our data indicate a hemispheric lateralization in autonomic activity which is mediated by the right-sided insular cortex. Patients with RH stroke involving the insular cortex are most susceptible to develop cardio-autonomic dysfunction.

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