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Neurosci Res. 2007 May;58(1):19-31. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

Reliability of intracortical and corticomotor excitability estimates obtained from the upper extremities in chronic stroke.

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Division of Geriatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Canada.


We estimated the trial-to-trial variability and the test-retest reliability of several intracortical and corticomotor excitability parameters for the upper extremity in chronic stroke patients. Nine patients with hemiparesis of the upper extremity were enrolled 8-17 months after a unilateral stroke. Transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to obtain repeated measures over a two week interval of motor evoked potential (MEP) recruitment curves and cortical silent periods in the first dorsal interosseus muscle of each hand. Five trials would have provided accurate estimates of the MEP amplitude and silent period duration for the unlesioned side in all patients, but 25% of the datasets from the lesioned side provided poor estimates of MEP amplitude even with 10 trials. Intraclass correlations were >0.70 for all parameters obtained from the lesioned side and for the MEP amplitude, slope of the recruitment curve, silent period, and silent period slope from the unlesioned side. MEP amplitude varied across sessions within subject by 20% on both sides, whereas other parameters showed less variability on the unlesioned side relative to the lesioned side. The Fugl-Meyer upper extremity motor score and the time to complete the 6 fine-motor items from the Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT) were also found to be highly reliable over this interval. We conclude that the functional and most of the excitability parameters are reliable across time in patients with variable lesions due to stroke. Due to high intrasubject variability, the use of some excitability parameters as indicators of functional neuroplasticity in response to treatment may be limited to interventions with large effect sizes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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