Interindividual differences in motor network connectivity and behavioral response to iTBS in stroke patients.

Research paper by Svenja S Diekhoff-Krebs, Eva-Maria EM Pool, Anna-Sophia AS Sarfeld, Anne K AK Rehme, Simon B SB Eickhoff, Gereon R GR Fink, Christian C Grefkes

Indexed on: 28 Jun '17Published on: 28 Jun '17Published in: NeuroImage: Clinical


Cerebral plasticity-inducing approaches like repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) are of high interest in situations where reorganization of neural networks can be observed, e.g., after stroke. However, an increasing number of studies suggest that improvements in motor performance of the stroke-affected hand following modulation of primary motor cortex (M1) excitability by rTMS shows a high interindividual variability. We here tested the hypothesis that in stroke patients the interindividual variability of behavioral response to excitatory rTMS is related to interindividual differences in network connectivity of the stimulated region. Chronic stroke patients (n = 14) and healthy controls (n = 12) were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a simple hand motor task. Dynamic causal modeling (DCM) was used to investigate effective connectivity of key motor regions. On two different days after the fMRI experiment, patients received either intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) over ipsilesional M1 or control stimulation over the parieto-occipital cortex. Motor performance and TMS parameters of cortical excitability were measured before and after iTBS. Our results revealed that patients with better motor performance of the affected hand showed stronger endogenous coupling between supplemental motor area (SMA) and M1 before starting the iTBS intervention. Applying iTBS to ipsilesional M1 significantly increased ipsilesional M1 excitability and decreased contralesional M1 excitability as compared to control stimulation. Individual behavioral improvements following iTBS specifically correlated with neural coupling strengths in the stimulated hemisphere prior to stimulation, especially for connections targeting the stimulated M1. Combining endogenous connectivity and behavioral parameters explained 82% of the variance in hand motor performance observed after iTBS. In conclusion, the data suggest that the individual susceptibility to iTBS after stroke is influenced by interindividual differences in motor network connectivity of the lesioned hemisphere.