Clinicians may be able to better predict the effects of strokes and other brain injuries by adapting a scanning approach originally developed for study of brain organization, neurologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.
The technique, known as resting-state functional connectivity (FC), reveals the health of brain networks that let multiple parts of the brain collaborate. Previous studies have shown that damage to these networks helps explain why damage to one brain region can cause problems in abilities controlled by another brain region.
Now, for the first time, scientists have linked differences in the nature of the harm done to brain networks to changes in the impairment experienced by patients.
"Clinicians who treat brain injury need new markers of brain function that can predict the effects of injury, which helps us determine treatment and assess its effects," says Maurizio Corbetta, MD, the Norman J. Stupp Professor of Neurology and professor of radiology and of neurobiology. "This study shows that FC scans are a potentially useful way to get that kind of information."
The results appear in the March issue of Annals of Neurology.
During FC scans, conducted using magnetic resonance imaging scanners, subjects are asked to relax and do nothing. The scans allow scientists to track changes in blood flow to different regions of the brain. During periods of mental inactivity, blood flow in brain regions that are networked generally tends to rise and fall in sync.
In 23 patients who had recently suffered a stroke, researchers looked at two networks: one that directs attention to visual stimuli, and a separate network that controls arm movements. The two networks include regions in both brain hemispheres.
They found patients with damage that disrupted network connections between regions on different sides of the brain had greater functional impairments t
|Contact: Michael C. Purdy|
Washington University School of Medicine